Republished with permission from Stephanie Rodgers at Boots Theory.
Via my personal idol Anat Shenker-Osorio, an interesting article from The Atlantic on the Working Families Party, who are finding fascinating new ways to drag the political conversation back to the left left-of-centre vaguely non-fascist end of the spectrum in the USA:
The Working Families Party’s agenda—frankly redistributionist and devoted to social equality—targets a class of Democratic elected officials who, in the view of many liberals, seem to listen more to their moneyed donors than to the left-wing rank and file. Aggressive, tactical, and dedicated to winning, the WFP would like to force Democrats—and the country—to become more liberal by mobilizing the party base, changing the terms of the debate, and taking out centrist incumbents in primaries.
If there’s ever been a moment for this, it is now. Four years after Occupy Wall Street, with the socialist Bernie Sanders pushing Hillary Clinton leftward in the Democratic presidential primaries, liberal frustration with national politics has reached a boiling point. Enter the WFP: Since its founding nearly two decades ago, it’s become an influential fixture of Democratic politics in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Now, the party is going national. By mid-2016, the WFP plans to be in 11 states, with more on the horizon. Last month, the WFP endorsed Sanders after an online vote of its national membership. They may not yet be a household name, but a few years from now, they aim to be a national force.
Kinda inspiring stuff, though obviously the voting system the WFP is using to get leverage over the Democrats doesn’t apply to NZ and MMP. This predicament in particular resonates with me:
In New Mexico, Benavidez said, labor and community groups had a good relationship. “But when it came to taking on corporate Democrats, there was a lot of hesitation.”
Analilia Mejia, the crusading director of New Jersey Working Families, jumped in from across the table. “Here is what you say to them, verbatim: ‘Let us be the “crazy” left,’” she said. “‘Let us be the voice that creates the space that allows you to negotiate for more of what you want.’ You can’t be for raising taxes? Let us say, ‘Tax the rich,’ and then you can push harder.”
There have been many attempts to create a more leftwing alternative in New Zealand, and they’ve failed for any number of reasons. One problem is probably our size – the pool of activists isn’t that huge, and when it’s the same people leading the charge time and time again the politics can become secondary to the personalities involved, whether they intend it or not.
Another is probably our love of tearing ourselves apart. I’m not talking about inter-blog sniping or Twitter kerfuffles – like the dudes of the left are so fond of saying, a few people sniping in blog comments doesn’t change the course of elections. But the big political left hasn’t been a happy family for a very long time, and our enemies see it – that’s why you can’t move for rightwing sockpuppets trying to sow discord about the Greens moving to the right, or constantly bringing up Kim Dotcom, or pretending to have “sources inside Fraser House” spreading rubbish about the Labour leadership.
I don’t know what the answers are. But what we can take from the WFP in the States, or Podemos in Spain, or yes, from the successes of people like Jeremy Corbyn, is that going left is not the end.
If a “frankly redistributionist and devoted to social equality” protest party can shift the discourse in the United States of America, it can’t be that mindblowing a prospect to get our own political discussions here in NZ back into the realms of fairness, and solidarity, and justice, and seeing the best in people not the bogeymen of bludgers or foreigners or parasites.