The Working Families Party began in just a few states with a very specific strategy, utilizing “fusion” voting laws to gain a ballot line and cross-endorse progressive Democrats. But lately it’s been lending its weight to elections far outside its usual orbit, from Birmingham, Alabama to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Communications director Joe Dinkin talks to me about the wins for the WFP’s endorsed candidates on November 7, the expanding and changing strategy for the party, and whether working within the Democratic party is the best way to pass social democratic policies.
I think down ballot what we saw was Democrats picked up something like 15 seats in the House of Delegates. I think most of the Democratic Party operatives were expecting to pick up more like 3 to 5 or 3 to 6 seats. The candidates actually won in some of the toughest districts, the more uphill, Republican leaning districts were some of the most progressive candidates running, people like Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman, who were the first two Latina candidates to be elected to the state legislature in Virginia; Danica Roem, the first trans candidate; Lee Carter, Democratic Socialist and member of DSA. All those candidates were running as sort of full-throated and bold progressives.
I think it blows up this prevalent myth in the Democratic Party that the way to win swing districts is with these boring, moderate, uninspiring, white men, generally, who run these cautious campaigns where they try really hard not to offend anyone. These candidates in some of the swingiest races in Virginia who won were candidates running really as full-throated progressives and they were a diverse slate and really blew up that idea of the Democratic Party and proved that, at the very least, there is another way to win; which is having a progressive vision and actually inspiring people with the change that you want to make in their lives and telling them how you are going to do that.
And this wasn’t just Virginia. Around the country there were municipal races. The Working Families Party, in total, endorsed a thousand candidates in 2017, over a thousand. Around the country we were seeing a new crop of movement progressive candidates picking up the mantle to run for local office and winning. These are a lot of candidates who are not out of the traditional structures of the Democratic Party, but whose backgrounds are often in union organizing or in community organizing groups or in social movements, and that kind of candidate was running on these very bold and transformative visions in a lot of cases and being rewarded by the voters for it.
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