Convention Discussion: Political Tactics in New York


Submitted by the Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Club, New York City

We are living in a time when the ultra-right is spending big bucks for political purposes and to elevate their favorite candidates in elections. The Republicans, spurred on by the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, Wall Street, Karl Rove, et al, are trying their best to suppress the vote, stop increases in the minimum wage, kill unions, cut public school spending, cut back public pensions, decrease unemployment compensation, push charter schools, cut back Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, increase rents, open up big opportunities for real estate developers, destroy public housing, cut taxes even more for the big corporations, ignore climate change, help big business to increase profits even at the risk of damaging the environment or ignoring worker safety, increase military spending, make the USA more interventionist overseas, take over the Senate, etc.

Too often, some Democrats will support the Republicans on some issues, such as on backing Israel, threatening war on Iran, intervening in Syria, building up military forces around China, supporting charter schools at the expense of public schools, and cutting back Social Security.

For example, Governor Cuomo of New York supported cutbacks of $2.3 billion in Medicaid in 2011, pushed through in 2013 legislation giving a very small increase in the minimum wage, but the legislation also gives subsidies to employers who hire teenagers at the minimum wage, thereby encouraging employers to fire better paid more experienced employees, and this year abruptly ended the study by the Morehead commission to take big money out of New York State politics. Several Democrats have advocated cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare, and even Obama in 2013 was advocating a compromise with Republicans by trading Social Security cuts if the Republicans would support tax increases on the wealthy. Happily, this compromise was buried because the Republicans would not agree to tax increases.

Nonetheless there are a number of progressive Democrats in New York State who give unqualified support for substantial increases in the minimum wage, sick pay, housing for middle and low income renters, cutting the military budget, and other progressive causes. However, none of these Democrats would advocate for socialism. Many would take bellicose stands against Iran and advocate substantial military aid to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

We also know that many of the Democrats are more open to pressure from labor, minorities, seniors, and youth to take progressive stands.

We sometimes must favor conservative Democrats, because they are running against ultra-right candidates and because we would prefer that the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives and prevent the Republicans from taking control of the Senate. If the Democrats take over the House of Representatives, and if enough Democrats get elected to the Senate to enable proposed bills get voted on (this takes 60 votes out of 100 in the Senate), the Democrats could prevent the Republicans from stopping immigration reform, stopping continuation of unemployment insurance benefits, stopping increases in the minimum wage, stopping governmental support of the environment, etc.

Sometimes, we must be free to disagree with Democrats on selected issues, even those whom we have supported, such as Obama on a national level, Jerrold Nadler, a progressive Congressman from Manhattan, and Bill De Blasio, who is New York City’s new progressive mayor. For example, we should be free to advocate a general reduction of our country’s military and to disagree with the Obama Administration’s expansion of some sections of our military forces.

Therefore, although we sometimes give limited support to Democrats, we must carefully weigh all factors before we would support the election of certain Democrats.

Offering constructive alternatives to anti-working class or other reactionary positions taken by certain Democrats or other forces, if done correctly, does not damage the coalition against the ultra-right, and would more likely strengthen the coalition.

Since the growth of the dissatisfaction with Governor Cuomo in New York State among progressive forces, there has been discussion in some circles about a more progressive Democrat running against Cuomo in the Democratic primary this year. No one has yet publicly expressed interest so far in running against Cuomo in the primary. If someone challenges Cuomo in the primary, we might, depending on the politics and integrity of the individual, work for such a candidate.

The Working Families Party (WFP), a left wing party in New York (there is also a Working Families Party in Connecticut) backed by a number of unions, might well endorse someone running against Cuomo. In a few days, the WFP will decide whether to have a candidate to run against Governor Cuomo in the general election. This is tempting. If the WFP has a candidate run against Cuomo in the general election, should we support such an effort? Such a candidate, while perhaps having a small chance of victory, might force Cuomo to appear to move somewhat to the left. However, such a candidate would have little expectation of winning.

One Republican, Rob Astorino, the Westchester County Executive, is running against Cuomo in the general election Cuomo will have about $40 million to spend for the elections this year, raised from big business, Wall Street, and real estate interests. Cuomo is heavily favored to win at this point, although this could change throughout the year. Astorino could probably raise only $20 million. Astorino has said he is opposed to the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare). He has been accused of being opposed to fair housing for African-Americans in Westchester County when he refused to make revisions in housing codes and zoning rules ordered by a federal court. As a result, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development revoked a block grant for community development in Westchester. Astorino, if elected, might well be an ultra-right governor, similar to Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Another factor to consider is that a progressive third-party candidate might take away enough votes to tip the scales to Astorino. The labor movement and other forces might end up blaming a third party candidate for an anti-labor governor.

There are no easy answers about our relationship with the Democratic party in New York, and blanket decisions cannot be made until we can see the balance of forces and the likely consequences of support for or a fight against Cuomo in New York.

On the other hand, a fight against Cuomo in the primary, win or lose, could well be a big step towards building a lasting independent movement that could take firm stands on progressive issues, and which could move on to more advanced issues, such as nationalizing the big banks, stopping military aid to Israel, withdraw and close down our country’s many military bases overseas, building a just society that prevents discrimination on the basis of race, implementing a fair path to citizenship for immigrants while ending deportations, stopping the huge amounts of money that big business puts into elections, and opening discussion of possible socialist alternatives to the dead-end solutions that capitalism provides.

We have said for many years said that building such an independent movement would take a special and lasting unity between many forces. The independent movement’s biggest muscle and best leadership would come from the labor movement. However, all oppressed forces would have to unite. These forces, in addition to the labor movement, would include minorities, environmentalists, women, seniors, the disabled, tenants, the LGBT community, students and academics, small business owners, and progressive cultural workers. Obviously young people would be a very important component, because youth are more open-minded and tend to more favorable of socialism than their elders.

The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

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30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014


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