How to Murder a Third Party

(11AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Cross-posted at Progressive Blue and several other places.

Actually the list of ways to kill off competition from Parties that represent the people is endless. When it comes to getting things done, taking out Third Parties has been one place where the two power parties has always preformed to the utmost of their ability and this is just one New York story.

Some states have evolved Fusion Parties in an attempt to get out from under the scrutiny of these power happy keepers of the plutocracy. One of these upstanding parties is The Working Families Party that has some presence in New York State. They stand for progressive values and labor union rights but this party has endorsed Andrew Cuomo. Reading Cuomo Vows Offensive Against Labor Unions it seems mysterious that the Working Families Party would place Cuomo on the ticket.

Andrew M. Cuomo  will mount a presidential-style permanent political campaign to counter the well-financed labor unions he believes have bullied previous governors and lawmakers into making bad decisions. He will seek to transform the state’s weak business lobby into a more formidable ally, believing that corporate leaders in New York have virtually surrendered the field to big labor.

By following the explanation of Celeste Katz who writes The Daily Politic at the New York Daily News the mystery is solved. Did you know that the Working Families Party has to receive 50,000 votes in the governors race this year to be on the ticket in 2010? Not getting those 50,000 (and it was because of Andrew Cuomo) was how the Liberal Party lost a column in New York State and later withered and died.  

The short version is that Andrew Cuomo used that 50,000 hurdle to blackmail the Working Families Party but below the fold I’ll follow the full explanation by Celeste Katz to understand how a union hating gubernatorial candidate got the endorsement of a party that is suppose to represent labor.

First there was this story in early June, Cuomo: WFP = NO.

State Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo is staying far, far away from the controversial Working Families Party line this cycle, his campaign says:

“The Working Families Party Convention is this weekend and we will not be submitting Andrew Cuomo’s name for the nomination,” said Cuomo spokesman Phil Singer. “There are several open issues that need to be considered, including but not limited to an ongoing Federal investigation as well as policy and procedural issues. We will revisit the question in September at which time there will be more information available.”

A number of newspapers (including, in the nature of full disclosure, the Daily News, with whose editorial policy I don’t have any connection) have pressed Cuomo to reject the WFP line.

Cuomo has, however, accepted the nomination of the Independence Party, which has an operative who is also under investigation related to the fate of money spent on Mayor Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign. The operative, John Haggerty, now works for GOP gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino, who has defended the hire.

At the time while Cuomo was defending the Independence Party being investigated, the investigation that Cuomo used as an excuse was going quite smoothly. It would seem that the always vainglorious Cuomo had an ulterior motive where that requirement of 50,000 votes in the governor’s race would become his leverage.

To reduce some of Mr. Cuomo’s leverage over the party, allies of the party in the State Senate on Sunday introduced legislation that would allow the Working Families Party to retain its line if any of its endorsed candidates for statewide office, including for United States Senate or comptroller, won 50,000 votes. But the bill’s prospects in the Legislature are uncertain.

Mr. Cuomo has promised to rein in state spending and hold the line on new taxes if he is elected governor. But that agenda clashes with the aims of the Working Families Party, which has advocated for an energetic, expansive public sector and for middle-class property tax relief financed by higher taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers.

As a result, Mr. Cuomo’s demands have set off a furious debate within the party coalition, which includes labor powerhouses like Service Employees International Union 1199, the health care workers union, and the United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York City teachers. Some of the party’s constituents believe Mr. Cuomo is intent on emasculating their coalition before he arrives in Albany, viewing it as a potential threat to his authority if he becomes governor.

Staying alive with 50,000 votes in any statewide race was a big problem for Cuomo’s “weak business lobby” and those “well-financed labor unions” must not be as strong as he claims because no laws were changed. As to the Daily News editorial, A mandate for Andrew: Cuomo must reject the Working Families Party ballot line.  

The WFP – in cahoots with pliable state Senate Democrats – is trying to jam through a major change in election law that would serve no purpose other than saving its own skin.

Under longstanding statutes, the party’s survival depends on garnering 50,000 votes in the governor’s race. That seems unlikely if Democratic candidate Cuomo spurns its endorsement, as he must if he aspires to take office with a clear mandate for fiscally responsible change.

The WFP’s underhanded plan would substantially lower that bar, so winning 50,000 votes in any statewide race would preserve its ballot status – and its power to make or break politicians.

In other words if both major parties picked a union busting and worker hating candidate for gov then with the rule change the WFP could continue to exist without endorsing major party candidate in the governors race and then be allowed to maintain Party integrity, such a foreign word to the major parties. Wouldn’t an empty column or a minor party candidate in the governors race getting the WFP slot just suck for the status quo?

So Cuomo used his power of the 50,000 votes  as an ultimatum. You could call Cuomo To WFP: Endorse Me AND Endorse My Agenda “politics as usual.” I’ll call not accepting the WFP endorsement until the WFP changes their platform what it is, blackmail from a power hungry egomaniac.

Andrew Cuomo delivered a blunt message to the Working Families Party this morning that he’s not willing to run on their line UNLESS they sign on to his reform agenda.

“I wouldn’t accept the nomination unless they support my platform,” Cuomo said during an appearance on Albany’s Talk 1300 radio station.

Then torn and tattered with the Working Families Party platform muddled through manipulation, the only choice that means survival is endorsing the union busting Democrat.

Apparently choosing between maintaining their resistance to Andrew Cuomo’s push for money-saving labor concessions and risking losing their ballot status, the Working Families Party has just announced they’ll be nominating Cuomo for governor.

Said a statement from Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor:

“The Working Families Party is proud to announce it will be nominating Andrew Cuomo as our gubernatorial candidate. He’s clearly the right leader for New York. We will be fighting for his electoral victory in November and then fight for legislative passage of his New NY Agenda in January.

“While some of our members have differed in the past on some of the specific issues in the New NY Agenda, the Executive Committee unanimously takes this position because we understand and accept Andrew’s point that this is a pivotal moment in the history of this state, similar to the 1975 New York City fiscal crisis, when leaders in the labor, civic, business and political arena must put aside their individual agendas for the good of the entire state.


Now some “centrist” might wish to argue that Cuomo has a point. Some may feel that Unions have too much power and claim that union have been keeping pace with inflation but that’s far from true. While unions do raise money to protect jobs that pay less and less each year, to claim an alliance with a “weak business lobby” over “well-financed labor unions” is just plain oblivious.  

As a matter of fact while our allies in the Democratic leadership and the media claims otherwise, while we have a president in the White House who feels the only problem in American education is union teachers, organized labor have been giving back on every contract for many years and are now counting down to the 40% excise tax on our “Cadillac Health Care.” Cuomo’s “presidential-style permanent political campaign to counter” labor unions sounds very much like a republican platform, until you look at the recent actions of Democrats. Does anyone remember the Employee Free Choice Act?

But even if you agree with Cuomo that unions are too powerful there is no excuse for blackmailing the Working Families Party into changing their platform and going against what they have stood for since 1998. A spokesman for Rick Lazio made a very valid point “Back-room political dealing in Albany is exactly what New Yorkers are tired of and what Andrew Cuomo has perfected over nearly 30 years in Albany.”

There is no excuse but there is a reason behind these back room politics. A Party with integrity represents a threat to Democrats. Voters could start asking “What if these candidates are not planning to capitulate on every promise once elected?” A Party that actually stands for something can’t be allowed by the Democratic machine so Andrew Cuomo took away what the Working Families Party stood for.

This does not make the WFP bad. They are just trying to survive as the only left leaning Party remaining on the ballot in New York and they were forced to choose a right leaning piece of garbage to survive. Now as New York workers have long known the choice is the Democrat that hates us or the Republican that hates us even more. This time to add insult to injury a vote for Andrew Cuomo is a vote for the survival of the Working Families Party.

All New Yorkers should support 50,000 in any statewide race being the hurdle that Third Parties must jump so good Parties don’t need to capitulate to bad people.          


Skip to comment form

    • Eddie C on October 26, 2010 at 04:40

    Do you remember Mario Cuomo’s 1984 Keynote Address?

    Yes I remember what Democrats once sounded like and I also remember that electing the children of former leaders dosen’t always work out so good.  

    • Eddie C on October 26, 2010 at 04:45

    All we need is 200,000 to vote WFP.

    • Eddie C on October 26, 2010 at 04:54

    Well all the candidates must live up to WFP values outside of Cuomo.

    Who is Steve?  

  1. that in any sort of viable working class politics in this era, any role for electoral strategies are at the very end of a very long process that hasn’t even yet begun.  If they have any role at all, ever.  American electoral politics are at present a wholly owned subsidiary of Neoliberal Hegemony, LLP, and at present can only serve to chain working people to those who have nothing but contempt for our self-interests.  Further, I see nothing whatsoever  that suggests an iota of “change” in that status in the present or potential future arrangements within the failing system of capitalist democracy.

  2. parties from having any significant degree of representation.

    The only solution is to divide those who want more choices from the power brokers who want to extort a decision between those two choices at the ballot box out of fear of the “other”.

    The method is the state referendum process.  The proposal is the multiple choice ballot.

    With multiple ranking choices for statewide office, no one need fear losing their vote should they not vote for the Democrat.  Or, Republican for that matter.

    The extortion effect — broken.  Nay, shattered.  Don’t like the Democrat running for state rep in your district?  Put the Green on the ballot for #1 then, and the Democrat as #2.  You won’t be “throwing your vote away”.

    Second, through the state referendum process, again, severely restrict limitations on ballot access for third party candidates.

    Part of the problem is, with the system the way we have it, there is no jumping off platform for third party politicians.  Holding political office already is a huge benefit for seeking higher office.  If you can’t even become a state senator or state representative, or some other high state office, it’s very hard to get to Congress.

  3. I just skimmed over this diary, as well as an article from the Nation, that was referenced in an OpenLeft diary.

    My main comment was here.

    Although not verifiable, I basically suggested that WFP apply a carrot and stick to NY state Dems, with the preferred quid pro quo being for Cuomo to drop some of his anti-WFP demands. (Otherwise, WFP strategically retaliates by voting Republican in selected races for US Congress, in NY State.) It’s too late, now, but going forward, they might consider my suggestion.

    Ah, may as well re-post it:

    I didn’t study this much, and just skimmed the Nation article  

    In particular, I don’t know what is meant by needing 50,000 votes to keep the WFP ballot line. Is that for any elected office, or just governor? (Also, what if they get signed petitions from 100,000 people, next election cycle? Can NY State still deny them a ballot line?)

    If just governor, it seems to me that they are giving up way too much. If all offices, well, that’s a tougher question. My guess is that, in this case, there is no winning voting strategy over the short term – they simply have to get more members, and nothing short of this will help them in the next election cycle.

    I recently suggested long term voting strategies for a Dump Obama movement. (A Dump Obama movement absolutely requires the short term voting strategy of seeking to primary Obama, if for no other reason than to honor it’s name!.) See Recommended Short and Long Term Voting Strategies for the Dump Obama Movement. The recent history and power of the WFP, plus the existence of fusion voting, suggests to me that their unique situation may demand much the opposite of my recommendation to dump state-level Dems, wholesale (in favor of Greens), so as to get better Dems at the federal level.**

    Instead, I think WFP should consider trading votes with progressive Dems for selected Congressional Dems*, in exchange for Cuomo yielding on some of his most un-WFP demands. Otherwise, the WFP should extract electoral reprisals by voting for Republicans for Congress. Maybe a smart way to go about it is to identify the 3 most vulnerable incumbent Dem Congress critters, and trade off one such incumbent for one of Cuomo’s objectionable demands. (OK, on reading further in this diary, I see they’ve already cut this deal. So, I’m suggesting what they should have done, instead.)

    If all the WFP can muster is about 50,000 votes, though, I don’t think they’ll be able to credibly threaten too many Democratic US Congress incumbents with retirement.

    * in particular, not wholesale abandonment of US Congress Dem incumbents

    ** in my voting strategies diary, this was:

    3) Dump all Dems (eventually) at the State level, and form a cooperative progressive Dem / progressive Green voting bloc. (Please see my diary on this subject: “Dump Corporate Dems” – Going Green at the State Level, to “make Dems do it” at the Federal level)

  4. The WFP strategy has always been to suck up to the Democratic power structure and try to play inside ball. They promised to pull the Dems to the left, and ended up chasing them to the right. No one was surprised when WFP kissed Cuomo’s ring and endorsed his anti-labor agenda – they depend completely on the Democrats for their very existence.

    All the NY progressives I know who are paying attention are voting for Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate. Here’s Hawkins’ response to Cuomo’s promise to attack labor:

    “When Cuomo was nominated last May he promised to ‘tangle’ with public employee unions. Now he promises a ‘presidential-style permanent political campaign’ against all labor unions. My pledge is to fight back and campaign with working New Yorkers for full employment, living wages, progressive taxes, and more workers organized into unions,” said Howie Hawkins, a Teamster freight handler at UPS and the only union member running for statewide office.

    “Since the mid-1970s, workers’ wages are stagnant, productivity is up 80 percent, and almost all resulting growth in income has gone to the richest 1 percent. Working class taxes are up. The taxes on Wall Street and big business are down. Today’s state fiscal crisis is caused by under taxing the rich, not over paying wages and benefits to workers or for government services for the general public. It is time to stop scapegoating workers and forcing them to cover the losses of bad investments by the economic elites. It was bad policy for resolving the 1975 New York City fiscal crisis that Cuomo uses as his model. It is just as bad today,” Hawkins added.

    If Hawkins gets at least 50,000 votes, the Green Party will win a ballot line in New York, making it possible to run many more Green candidates at all levels who will stand with working people against Cuomo and his corporatist agenda. If you’re not convinced yet to vote for a true progressive independent party, check out

  5. I live in Oregon. There is a WFP on the ballot running for Senator against Gitmo loving Mr. By-partisan Dem. senator Wyden. I’m voting for him. I think the strategy of WFP is a good one for now. I stayed a registered Dem because of primary voting and I vote for any candidate regardless of party who is better then the machine Democrats. I’m a realist not a purist and if it takes backdoor tactics to get a viable alternative to the one party’s grip on elections then I will use it. Local state level and county city races are easier here, but money and the one party machine still has it’s tentacles in every precinct. Any thing that puts a dent in the ‘spoiled’ electoral process we are faced with and told is binary so eat it is okay with me.

    Interesting I had no idea that Cuomo was such a dick. NYC is another land altogether, the heart of the ‘financial industry’ home of the owners of the place, and the rents too high. Unions have no power and the Democratic party is hell bent on finishing off what Reagan started. Meanwhile here in Oregon we have a idiot right wing, to rich, basketball player, who thinks the minimum wage should be revoked for waitresses, neck in neck with Kitzaber. I will vote for Kitz not with enthusiasm but to hold the line.

    I don’t believe that third parties are an impossibility that’s the same people talking who call the corporate/ fascist state and it domination over the world ‘inevitable’. Politics are never inevitable and in this country historically, party’s come and go and morph into the polar opposite of their beginnings. If ever spoilers were needed it’s now, somehow I think that this insanity is choreographed by both parties to extort your vote to keep the Kubuki going. In and out of the machine is all we can do.          

Comments have been disabled.