We made front-page news!
The Shepherd Express just reported on Wisconsin Working Families Party and what we stand for in an article called “Working Families Party Seeks to Reshape Wisconsin Politics.” It’s a great piece that highlights our strengths and what we’re going to win in the months ahead.
And it’s a great way to introduce Wisconsin Working Families to people who may not have heard of us yet!
Can you please read the article below and share it with your friends and family?
Will support progressive candidates to oust corporate Democrats and conservatives
BY LISA KAISER
All too often progressive voters have been disappointed in their choice of candidates on the ballot. Corporate Democrats try to say the right things to them on the campaign trail but once elected won’t support anything that could jeopardize contributions from their big-money benefactors. Candidates from the progressive wing of the party are typically outspent by their conservative rivals and therefore drowned out during primary campaigns. Even in safe Democratic districts where a progressive could easily win over a Republican in a general election, they are outspent in the primary by the corporate special interest money that supports the corporate Democratic candidate, who oftentimes ends up acting too much like a Republican. When progressives do get elected to office, they’re invariably outnumbered in not only the legislative body as a whole, but in their own Democratic caucus. As a result, it is difficult for progressives to get legislation passed unless the Democrats are in the majority and they can get their items into the budget with the help of some of the moderate Democrats, usually at the cost of weakening their legislative proposals a bit.
The Working Families Party is seeking to change all that by providing much-needed support for what it terms “progressive champions” who will fight for policies that will help—you guessed it—working families. That includes issues such as a $15 an hour minimum wage, better workplace benefits, racial justice, strong public schools, affordable higher education, progressive taxation, voting rights, reproductive freedom and a greener environment. While these issues are championed by progressives, they’re actually highly popular among voters across the political spectrum but tough to enact in our current political climate.
The Wisconsin Working Families Party, launched this summer, named Milwaukee County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic as state director and former Supervisor Eyon Biddle as deputy director, as the party came off a series of victories in eight other states. Its Wisconsin board includes members of public- and private-sector unions, the immigrants’ rights group Voces de la Frontera, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Jobs Now and other community organizations.
“We are a new home for people who are sick of the two main parties taking money from corporations who are helping to write laws,” Dimitrijevic told the Shepherd. “We think that the two big parties that we have in mainstream U.S. politics have both been compromised by big money.”
Biddle said the party will provide a positive choice for voters who have been alienated by the major mainstream parties.
“I’m sick of voting for the lesser of two evils,” he said.
Pushing Back against Corporate Dominance
Dimitrijevic pointed to progressive victories around the globe as part of a growing awareness that our profit-hungry political and economic system is poised for change. Closer to home, the Working Families Party has had a hand in progressive victories in other states. The New York chapter pushed for—and recently won—a $15 an hour minimum wage for fast food workers across that state. It’s a major backer of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is boosting affordable housing, launched universal pre-kindergarten and is implementing a more progressive taxation system to pay for it. In Oregon, the party helped to get a “ban the box” bill passed, which removes questions about one’s criminal history from job applications. In Maryland this summer, Montgomery County officials unanimously passed paid sick leave legislation, part of the Working Families Party’s platform.
“The 99% is ready to stand up to the 1%,” Dimitrijevic said.
Dimitrijevic said she’d like to see similar victories in Wisconsin since the party’s core issues appeal to a broad swath of the public. After all, Milwaukee’s paid sick leave ordinance passed with 69% of the city vote in a 2008 referendum, but a court challenge from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce (MMAC) and a Republican law stopped it and other local paid sick leave policies from being implemented in the state. And recent Marquette University Law School polls show support for raising the minimum wage—even among Republican voters—as well as proposed regulations on carbon-spewing coal plants and additional funding for public schools. Yet the Scott Walker administration and Republican legislative leaders are ignoring public sentiment and enacting policies that support major campaign donors such as the Koch brothers, fossil fuel-based utilities, voucher and charter school advocates and conservative business owners.
But corporate Democrats can be just as dangerous—if not more dangerous—than tea party Republicans, since they give cover to the GOP for their regressive policies and also find ways to stymie progressive Democratic legislation. For example, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke runs as a Democrat in the partisan fall election campaigns and County Executive Chris Abele runs in a nonpartisan spring election but claims to be a Democrat, but both act like Republicans once in office. (At least Clarke is honest on the campaign trail about his positions on issues, while Abele has shown no such candor.) Abele, the son of a billionaire, in particular has turned his back on working families, while boosting his fellow elites who run the county in private from their closed-door offices. He’s even gone so far as to contribute to Republican legislators who pass anti-democratic legislation in Madison.
“Abele’s really been blatant about his courtship of Republicans,” Biddle said. “He’s operated without impunity and he feels he can’t be touched because of his daddy’s money.”
Dimitrijevic, who had backed Abele when he had initially campaigned for county executive but quickly turned into an opponent once his conservative agenda became clear, ticked off a long line of Abele’s damage to working families. He opposed a living wage for county workers, treated organized labor poorly, attempted to privatize the zoo operations and transit, sought to fund the Bucks arena on the backs of struggling suburban homeowners, sold off prime county real estate for far less than its market value, and worked with suburban Republican legislators to reduce the power of the board of supervisors to be a check on executive branch excesses, drastically undermining a democratically elected board that is the most diverse in the state and gutting the power of the county’s minority voters.
Currently, Abele is implementing a Republican-backed plan that allows him to appoint a commissioner to take over and privatize public schools and remove them from public oversight by the Milwaukee Public Schools board and city voters. Abele’s MPS plan is part of a national wave of state-mandated takeover districts developed by the special interest groups that target poor, primarily African American and Latino communities that have been starved of resources. Instead of fully funding public schools and improving student performance, these takeover districts merely funnel taxpayer money to private charter school operators and do nothing to enhance learning.
“Clearly, Mr. 1% does not represent the values of working families,” Dimitrijevic said. “In some cases, he’s been worse than Scott Walker.”
Not a Third Party
The Wisconsin chapter of the Working Families Party is going to be a major factor in the 2016 elections, Dimitrijevic promised, although it isn’t a third party in the traditional sense in that it isn’t seeking ballot status in Wisconsin. Rather, it’ll be a stamp of approval for candidates who support and who will work to implement the Working Families Party’s agenda in office, the way that the tea party supports some Republican candidates who support its agenda. Dimitrijevic said the party seeks to knock off corporate Democrats and conservative Republicans if they can replace them with unique progressive candidates, especially those who are from communities of color. She said the party wants to support candidates who can inspire Wisconsinites to get to the polls even when there are barriers to voting, the sort of thing at which President Barack Obama and Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee excel.
“When you don’t see someone who looks like you or is speaking to you about your everyday values, then it’s really tough to get excited about going out to vote,” Dimitrijevic said. “But sometimes someone comes along and something lights up and you think, this person knows my reality. We want to bring those types of candidates to the ballot box.”
The election season starts early next year, with nonpartisan primaries to be held on Feb. 16, and the general spring election—which will include the presidential partisan primaries—slated for April 5. The nonpartisan races include state Supreme Court justice as well as Milwaukee mayor, Milwaukee County executive, city attorney, and seats on the Milwaukee Common Council and the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. In the fall, voters will head to the polls for the Aug. 9 partisan primary for state and federal office holders as well as the Nov. 8 general election, at which the candidates for president will be topping the ballot.
Not surprisingly, the Working Families Party is looking for a quality candidate to run against Abele in the spring. State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) is a potential contender—Larson beat conservative Sen. Jeff Plale in the 2010 Democratic primary—but he hasn’t made any official announcement about his plans yet. Whoever ultimately runs against Abele will have a daunting task, of course, since the county executive can personally pay for top-tier consultants and millions in ads to burnish his image and the corporate community will support him. Also, the Journal Sentinel under its new, very conservative editor, will be very selectively covering the race to make their boy Abele look good. But Dimitrijevic thinks that Abele’s record will speak for itself and prove to be unpopular with voters.
The party is also taking aim at Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander, a white conservative representing a majority-minority district who has been Abele’s most loyal, and oftentimes only, ally on the board. A challenger to Alexander has already declared—Martha De La Rosa, state director of 9to5, an organization devoted to working women’s issues—but the Working Families Party hasn’t endorsed her or any other candidate yet.
Dimitrijevic said other county board and common council seats, as well as the city attorney’s office, could be pickup opportunities for progressive candidates. In the fall, the Working Families Party may support a presidential candidate and other federal candidates who share their vision of a more equal and just country that can provide opportunities for struggling Americans.
Biddle said that in addition to supporting progressive candidates, the Working Families Party aims to mobilize voters around issues that affect them. He said Milwaukee’s North Side, in particular, has been devastated by corporate-driven policies that favor the elites.
“People understand that their paychecks are getting shorter and shorter but their work days are getting longer and longer,” Biddle said. “These are common issues that bind us together and we will find ways to get people excited.”