With the support of 68% of our membership and the backing of our national board, we’re announcing the Working Families Party’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President.
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.
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. Here’s why:
First, because we need to not merely defeat Trump — we need to repudiate him and everything he represents. Donald Trump is the most dangerous figure in mainstream American politics since George Wallace. A Trump victory would not only put an unqualified, know-nothing, narcissistic, authoritarian jerk in the White House, it would empower the most malignant tendencies in American society. He offers up a phony, racist populism. He mocks the disabled. He stokes fear and incites hatred of immigrants, Muslims, and women. His rhetoric has generated violence.
We believe that a multi-racial, progressive and genuinely game-changing populism can win back some of his voters over time, especially independents, and that’s a task for the next decade. The task of the next 84 days is to sweep Trump — and Trumpism — off the stage once and for all.
Second, because Secretary Clinton has announced good policies on many issues that are deeply important to the lives and fortunes of the middle-class, working-class and poor:
- Public Financing of Elections and Voting Rights. Clinton calls not just for tossing Citizens United but also for the creation of publicly financed elections. Not just restoration of the Voting Rights Act, but also automatic voter registration. There’s no chance of saving our democracy without these reforms.
- Tuition-Free Higher Education. Clinton has adopted the bulk of Sanders’ free college proposal, and that’s something to be enthusiastic about. This will surely be a huge fight for the next two years.
- Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Sec. Clinton supports a path to citizenship and the DREAM Act, and have called for expanding Obama’s executive action so families can stay together. Trump wants to build a wall and start mass deportations.
- Jobs and Infrastructure. Clinton has called for enormous (and overdue) investment in public spending on clean energy and infrastructure. Trump favors tax cuts for the rich and the fraud known as trickle down.
- Mass Incarceration. Clinton calls for ending private prisons, alternatives to incarceration (like drug treatment), and reducing mandatory minimums.
- Climate Change. Sec. Clinton has announced policies that would make major investments in renewable energy while creating good jobs and protecting communities on the front lines of the global climate crisis. Trump says climate change is a hoax.
But it’s not just the policy proposals. It’s the enormous power of appointments, and not merely the Supreme Court.
The National Labor Relations Board and Department of Labor can make it harder or easier for workers to form unions, and for gig economy workers to obtain rights in the workplace. The EPA makes critical choices about how clean our water should be, and whether we will fight climate change for real. People facing foreclosure need advocates at HUD. 401(k) account holders need serious regulators at Treasury and the SEC.
This is not to say that Hillary Clinton is perfect. She’s not. No candidate is. The truth is, if she becomes President Clinton, she will only be as good as we — social movements, unions, progressive activists and organizations — make her. History is clear on this. LBJ’s achievements on civil rights and the safety net expansion were unimaginable without the civil rights movement; FDR’s New Deal would have been impossible without the mobilization of millions of unemployed and industrial workers. It’s up to us to set the stage for the future we want to see.
Even if a President Clinton were able to pass all of her policy proposals, it wouldn’t be enough to create the world we want to live in. We have to go much deeper than what the Democratic Party or modern capitalism currently allow. We have to change the rules of the game on the economy, on our democracy and on the planet. In the end we need to change the very questions we ask about what we owe each other and what our history really is. Fundamentally, we need to change the balance of power in the society so that the burdens and blessings of the land are truly shared.
Our staff spent hours and hours reading thousands of comments submitted by WFP members during this process. (It’s humbling to be part of an organization with so many committed people.)
A majority of members voted to endorse Clinton for many of the reasons we lay out above. But we want to recognize the views of a minority of WFP members who opposed the decision. There were two arguments that we heard most frequently. Some argued we should focus on electing down-ballot progressives; others said WFP should remain “outside” in order to continue pressuring her, without endorsing. Both are important points, and in large measure are part of what we intend to do in the years ahead.
In this spirit, I thought it would be helpful to share the party’s four-part plan for the months to come.
1. Defeat Trump and Elect Clinton. This means working to mobilize every voter to come to the polls in sufficient numbers to elect Clinton, especially in hotly-contested states. We will not give up on working class white voters who are being played for fools by Trump.
2. Elect the best down-ballot progressives. No President alone can win the change we need. That’s why we are backing candidates for Congress who will be leaders in the fight for Bernie’s agenda, like Zephyr Teachout and Tim Canova. And it’s not just Congress — just as important are State Houses. Just last week, WFP candidate Josh Elliott, a Bernie-backer in Connecticut, won the Democratic primary for a State House seat formerly held by the moderate Speaker.
3. Hold Secretary Clinton accountable to the promises she made in 2016 by continuing to organize in 2017. We cannot rely on any single candidate to deliver the change we seek, but we can build the power that turns promises into policy. Together with allies, we aim to build a powerful coalition that can keep the pressure high on our progressive priorities. (In the short term, we will mobilize to make sure Sec. Clinton continues to oppose the TPP and stop that bad trade deal in its tracks this year.)
4. The next generation of progressive leadership. We’re going to double down on our candidate pipeline project. This is perhaps our most important task. We need to recruit, train and elect the next generation of progressive leaders, and work with them to help build the political revolution.
Another argument we heard from a fraction of the “no endorsement” voters was that we should endorse the Green Party’s Jill Stein. Stein’s policy platform has many points to be admired, but her strategy is fatally flawed. You can’t build a new party under our current system by asking voters to cast a vote that is at best meaningless and at worst destructive of progressive possibility.
WFP organizers and activists are deeply dedicated to building a new party. In our experience, the best way to build an independent political movement is to start at the local level, electing progressive leaders to office. It includes taking advantage of Democratic primaries, just as Bernie Sanders did. And it means not running an implausible protest candidacy, especially with a candidate as dangerous as Trump on the ballot.
That’s it. I want to thank you all, no matter how you voted, for helping us make this important decision. We’ll need every single one of you with us in the months and years to come. That’s the only way we might make real our vision of a more just and humane society.
National Director, Working Families Party