The critical decision for the Working Families Party during the 2016 presidential election cycle was to endorse Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. As a progressive political organization that works to move the politics of the Democratic Party and the nation to the left, the WFP recognized last fall that it needed to be on board with the progressive-populist bid that Sanders was mounting. And Sanders needed the WFP. During the primary and caucus season, and at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, WFP activists were among the savviest Sanders strategists and supporters.
The Sanders campaign succeeded in moving the Democratic Party to the left—pressuring front-runner Hillary Clinton to adopt more progressive stances on issues ranging from trade policy, to living wages to tuition-free higher education; and playing a critical role in drafting a significantly more progressive platform than the party ran on in 2012. Those shifts helped to clear the way for the WFP to make a second critical decision that extends from the first. The party this week endorsed Clinton, giving the Democratic nominee a second ballot line in several states (most notably New York, where President Obama won 141,056 votes on the WFP line in 2012). The endorsement also provides Clinton with an opening to develop stronger grassroots networks in nine states (including potential presidential battlegrounds such as Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia, where the WFP has built political operations.
The WFP endorsement was made with eyes wide open, as party leaders acknowledged that Clinton was not their first choice.
“WFP was an early, enthusiastic supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign. He demonstrated the deep hunger of millions of Americans for a ‘political revolution’—a radical restoration of democracy and participation, an end to the oligarchic power of a wealthy elite, and a new era of economic, racial and climate justice,” explained WFP national director Dan Cantor. “But elections are about choices. And when we wake up on November 9th, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will have been elected President. We choose Secretary Clinton, as Bernie did. We make this announcement knowing we’ll need to work to hold her accountable to her campaign’s promises. But we need to elect her first.”
Clinton, who was elected to the US Senate from New York with WFP support, celebrated the presidential endorsement.
“Working families are the engine behind our economy, the heart of our democracy, and the core of what makes America great. But today, it’s too hard for working people to get ahead and stay ahead,” said the nominee. “That’s why the Working Families Party is so important. For almost two decades, they have fought to make our economy fairer and our country stronger. They’ve fought to raise the minimum wage in states and cities across the country; combat climate change and create new, good-paying jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency; and train and elect trailblazing progressive leaders.”