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Pull That WFP Lever | The Nation

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Pull That WFP Lever

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New Yorkers: You have a choice this Election Day. Your vote can help build a progressive, multiracial, worker-led movement that stands for higher wages, increased investments in childcare and public education, affordable and accessible healthcare, better workers' compensation and serious campaign finance reform. How? By voting for Democrat Carl McCall for governor on the Working Families Party line.

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McCall's positions on redressing the inequalities of education funding, raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits are clearly better than those of incumbent Republican Governor George Pataki, whose election-year conversions on everything from healthcare spending to environmental protection are not to be trusted. But more than voting for the candidate, we are urging a vote for him on the Working Families Party's line to help it garner the minimum of 50,000 votes it needs to stay on the ballot.

Since its founding four years ago, the party--a coalition of progressive unions, community organizations, public interest groups and county-based chapters with dues-paying members--has demonstrated muscle and creativity, boosting the changes of progressive candidates and showing conservative Republicans and establishment Democrats alike that it can punish them at the ballot box. The WFP is much more than a line on the ballot. The party's leaders and members organize year-round, producing real movement toward raising the state minimum wage and solid progress toward living-wage victories in several counties and cities. The party has succeeded in getting the Democrats it has endorsed to take better positions on issues ranging from labor rights and free trade to public financing of elections. On the state and city budgets, where there is a suffocating two-party consensus for cuts and concessions from public employees, the WFP is pushing for investments in critical public services, paid for by raising taxes on people who can afford them.

The WFP is not the only third party on New York's ballot that may appeal to progressive voters. The Green Party is running CUNY professor (and Nation contributor) Stanley Aronowitz. for governor. While many of the Greens' positions are appealing, and Aronowitz has run a vigorous campaign, the Greens have yet to forge coalitions with labor and communities of color or to show they can build organizational staying power. We might like the WFP to put up its own candidates every now and then in these high-level races, but we believe the WFP's patient base-building makes more sense than the Green Party's insistence on running its own candidates, however marginal or likely to siphon votes from progressive Democrats.

Do progressives really have the luxury of casting a pure protest vote when McCall, an African-American, is demonstrably better than Pataki on many basic issues? In New York, where cross-endorsements are permitted, a smart voter can give expression to progressive values by voting on the basis of party, not personality. While votes on the WFP's line will count toward McCall's total, they will also insure a permanent progressive presence in state politics, whatever happens on Election Day. Don't waste your vote; vote WFP.

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