October 18, 2020

BERNSTEIN | If You’re Voting Biden/Harris in New York, Do So on the Working Families Party Line

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The Working Families Party in New York State is at risk of losing its spot on future ballots if it doesn’t reach 130,000 votes for President. This third party is a left-wing advocate for social democracy and progressivism and it’s best known for its support of democratic challengers to moderate incumbents across the state. With new rules raising the minimum votes required for a third party’s spot on the ballot, WFP is at risk of fading away.

In 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo formed a commission to reform the campaign finance system in New York. One of the commission’s decisions was to increase the threshold of votes necessary to keep a third party on the ballot in future elections. If a minority party doesn’t receive more than 2 percent of total voter turnout or 130,000 votes (whichever is higher) in a presidential/gubernatorial election, that party will lose its automatic spot on the ballots of future elections.

This seems to come as an attack to progressivism in the state. It wasn’t long after a WFP-endorsed candidate, Cynthia Nixon, primaried Governor Cuomo that the new regulations came out. Now they’re taking effect after an incredible year in New York for progressive democrats. WFP-backed congressional candidates Mondaire Jones, Jamaal Bowman, Jackie Gordon and Dana Balter won hard fought primaries in June. Progressive challengers can be viewed as a threat to powerful establishment Democrats like Cuomo or Congressman Eliot Engel, who was defeated by Bowman. Getting WFP off the ballot can be a way to curtail their efforts.

The party truly does make a difference in pushing progressive policies and moving the state further left. Giving help and money to grassroots campaigns goes a long way in putting progressives in office and making policy changes. In each of the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, the party spent a little less than $300,000 supporting campaigns.

This translates to policy wins. WFP backed progressive challengers in New York state politics like Alessandra Biaggi and played a role in defeating the Independent Democratic Conference, which was a rogue group of Democrats in the NYS Senate who caucused with Republicans, giving them the majority rule. With no IDC, state Democrats have been able to usher in sound progressive changes like strengthening rights for voters and tenants.

WFP stands for true progressive ideas, like taxing the rich, a $15 minimum wage, the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. Ideally, the party can keep supporting candidates who call for progressive change in New York. But unless the party gets votes in November, they will lose those opportunities.

Without having an automatic spot on the ballot, WFP can still lend their efforts towards helping campaigns of primary challengers, but then they’re no different than any other progressive PAC or organization. The party, which has been growing in terms of victories and chapters across different states, would likely lose members, donors and electoral sway in New York. They wouldn’t be able to list general election candidates for state and local races and nobody wants to join or support a party that can’t even put names on the ballot.

Luckily, New York has fusion voting, which means that a third party can endorse a major party candidate if they feel that the candidate’s views align with their platform. That’s how Joe Biden is listed for the presidential election on both the Democratic party line and the WFP line. Regardless of the line you choose, a vote for Biden is still a vote for Biden and against Trump. It counts the same.

There isn’t too much electoral suspense over who will win New York in the presidential election, but that your vote could still prove vital. For the thousands of New Yorkers at Cornell and for those that may be registered to vote here in Ithaca, vote for Biden and Harris on the Working Families Party line (for that matter, please vote for them regardless of your home state).

Future progressive candidates and ideas need your vote now. Put them on the ballot by voting WFP in the 2020 presidential election.

Go beyond, if you feel inclined. No matter your statehood, you can donate to the party, volunteer for their candidates and maybe even become a member. Stand for workers’ rights and progressive ideals.

I wouldn’t blame you if you feel unheard by the Democratic party in our current state of politics. This country needs structural change and Democrats haven’t stepped up. They’re supporting fracking and letting the Senate judiciary committee walk all over them. Although it still elects their candidate, voting for Biden on WFP can act as a moral victory over Democratic establishment. It’s a way to tell them to do better or they will continue to be challenged, as is right.

The work to better this country doesn’t end if Joe Biden wins. The Working Families Party will continue to fight if we give them the opportunity. They deserve our vote this November.

Daniel Bernstein is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at dgb222@cornell.edu. Feel the Bern runs every other Monday this semester.