It’s good to see Molly Ball taking a deep dive into the Working Families Party. As a veteran of ACORN, I have a natural affinity for the folks who run the organization and I’m always trying to keep one eye on what they’re up to at the moment.
I think one of the more important things you can get out of reading Ms. Ball’s piece is a sense for how effective the party has been in both electing public officials and getting bills passed through legislatures.
Some of the party spokespeople are openly quoted in the piece as seeing the Tea Party as an inspiration, and I can understand what they’re getting at. But I don’t think the comparison is all that apt. For one thing, the WFP predates the Tea Party by twelve years. More importantly, I’m not sure how many victories the Tea Party can truly claim.
Yes, they moved the nation’s politics to the right and helped set a climate that badly damaged the left in the 2010 elections, and again in the 2014 elections. And we can see some real legislative consequences to those victories on that state and local levels, mainly related to guns and access to reproductive health care. But the Tea Party wasn’t really supposed to be about social issues. It was supposed to be mainly about fiscal issues.
On the former, whatever advances the right made on guns and abortion must be weighed against their complete defeat on gay marriage. And, on fiscal issues, the federal government hasn’t been stripped down to the studs but more and more states and municipalities are adopting a higher minimum wage, paid time off, and other WFP priorities.
I think there are couple of things to keep in mind when comparing the hard left to the hard right. The hard left is better at community organizing and they like to focus on concrete objectives. The hard right makes a lot of noise, but it is outfits like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that wind up writing their legislation. The second thing is that the hard left is much more often dealing in reality. The problems they’re concerned with are a lot more grounded than questions about the president’s birth certificate or conspiracy theories about bike paths and terror babies. They don’t flit from imaginary outrage to imaginary outrage. More than anything, this allows them to stay focused and take the time to effectively organize.
It might feel sometimes like the right is dominating things on the state and local level, but take a good look at the product of the Working Families Party. They’re going places.