In Friday’s New York Times, an article on page A25 profiled the Working Families Party, a party founded in 1998 that is unique to the New York region (even though it is “being built right now in Oregon, South Carolina, and Delaware”). It was subtitled “A Field Operation With a Liberal Agenda” and described the party’s strategy for achieving its goals, which is unlike anything seen in larger third parties.
The Working Families Party is hired out by Democrats to do their grassroots work, such as knocking on doors and creating lists of interested voters. In this way, they have created a source of income and are able to push their own agenda within the Democratic Party once their cross-nominated candidates are elected. And their candidates are usually elected, which is also unique among third parties.
The party also nominates its own candidates, however. Urania Petit of Connecticut is one example, and she is even featured on the front page of the party’s website. Also, the New York Times reports, if a candidate they have helped elect does not respect their agenda, they will put up a challenger in the next election. An example of that is New York City Council member – and Democrat – Darlene Mealy. She helped pass the recent term limits legislation while the small party opposed it.
An excerpt of the article (the full article can be read here):
In just 10 years, the tiny Working Families Party has built a reputation for pulling off upset victories in low-turnout primaries and special elections, one or two at a time. Now, however, in a presidential election year, and with the Senate’s Republican majority endangered for the first time in decades, the party is putting its record on the line in half a dozen races from Ronkonkoma to Rochester. Democrats in the Senate have effectively outsourced their entire ground game to the unassuming army of Working Families canvassers at a price of about $700,000. On any given day, about 200 of its people are in the field.
“They’ve really delivered everything they said they would,” said Doug Forand, the Democratic Party strategist who cut the deal with Working Families.
The party’s higher statewide profile has attracted stepped-up criticism, meanwhile, with Republicans seizing on sloppy financial reporting and some Democrats privately cautioning against attributing too much power to what they argue is little more than a field operation for hire.
Victory would mean a chance to demand that newly empowered — and deeply indebted — Democratic lawmakers press the party’s liberal agenda on issues like taxation, rent control and health care. A monumental achievement for any third party, let alone one so young.