Ok, I was born in the MTV "Rock The Vote" generation and we were raised with this mantra of "It doesn't matter who you vote for....just get out there and vote!". However, I started this blog in an attempt to actually use words to express opinions (not something I really cultivated at art school). So I'm going to stick to my main goal and tell you about how I'm voting these days and how I hope you might be interested in voting too.
One of the hot topics in 2010 - whether you're talking to your grandparents or your taxi driver - is whether Obama is doing a good job. Honestly, I really don't see that as the issue. Not to get all JFK on yours and mine asses but what have any of us done to help Barack do all the amazing things he promised us. What have our other elected representatives done to change things? Politics doesn't work with one person making all the laws and changes..... that's totalitarianism. Obama did not come to wash all our sins away, his job is to try to pass laws that hundreds of senators and representatives are going to argue and debate for months. So really what we need to do is make sure that those representing us in Congress really care about the issues we care about. In order to do that we need to vote even when it isn't a presidential election. Our generation of 20 somethings and some 30 somethings see Obama like he's a political party in itself. Its like when we went to college and people talked about Radiohead like it was a genre....."What kind of music are you into"....."Oh ya know, Radiohead".
There are politicians other than Obama- like the ones who voted not to legalize gay marriage in New York last year. Or the ones who kept firing nurses and teachers and firefighters last year because they couldn't balance the budget. Or the ones who keep raising your metrocard prices. Or the asshats who were running around up in Albany flipflopping political parties and turning the lights off on each other and locking up the paperwork and holding separate meetings and ugggg.
Okay so I know its really hard to keep up with politics and understanding what side everyone is really on. Even when I listened to NPR every day for a year at an old job, I still had a fraction of an idea what was going on. So its good to try to know whats going on but I also want to get to the point of this post and tell you about the Working Families Party. The Working Families Party does this great thing of sifting through everyone whose running for office's records and opinions- interviewing them, holding debates between candidates, and then backing who they believe is really going to help actual people in New York. And not the kind of "people" that corporations now count as.
The Working Families Party is mostly looking out for those of us who are still middle class or working class in New York. Also those of us who care about education and who are concerned about rights in the work place. In 2004 the WFP accomplished their first goal of raising the NY minimum wage to 7.15 an hour. This lead to the minimum wage being raised in quite a few other states and soon after the federal government followed suit with their own raise. Of course that's still really hard to live on in NY so the WFP has continued to pass local ordinances in certain counties to make sure everyone is making a living wage.
The WFP also works on making sure there is affordable housing and an increasing number of green jobs and green homes in New York. They fight constantly for health care, family leave, and sick leave for all New Yorkers. While many politicians stumping for office talk about their love and support of the troops, the Working Families Party works on actual specifics of making sure that all veterans and military families are provided with full health care, housing assistance, and attention to mental health concerns. They have also worked tirelessly of late on the issue of unsafe gas-drilling effecting our water supply. In addition, the WFP works to make sure all elections are clean elections and that a very watchful and progressive eye be kept on the dealings of Wall Street.
Closest to my heart I think is the issue of education which is why I was first interested in this party. Education is a huge part of the WFP's focus - from the cuts in elementary schools to the increasing tuition at SUNY and CUNY. Classism and racism are deeply ingrained in our country's outlook on education and I could never vote for anyone who didn't care deeply about fighting against that.
In addition, the WFP supports candidates who not only support their issues, but support change. In 2009 they lead John Liu to the office of City Comptroller, making him the first Asian American elected to city wide office. In the same election Debi Rose became the first African American ever elected from Staten Island. In Queens, Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer became the first openly gay elected officials in the borough, while Julissa Ferrera became its first Latina elected official. The WFP made sure that those in office really are a reflection of those they represent.
Okay so full disclosure - I had a huge coffee before I wrote this. But also another full disclosure - I worked for the Working Families Party for a month in 2009. Its crazy that it was a month because it felt like a year, and I mean that in all ways. It was the dead of February and there was an occasional negative 19 degree windchill and we were on the street for hours ringing every door bell. Yet, I'd leave at 10pm wound up - high on the fact that I was actually doing something meaningful. Pretty much all of my other jobs have been helping rich people get richer, so it was nice to for once be helping the rest of New York keep their jobs. Basically I rang doorbells for hours and talked to people about the NY state budget and explained that while some people will be laid off it would be much better to raise taxes .01% for those making over 250,000 than to fire 30,000 teachers and almost as many nurses, and also tons of firefighters, policemen, and others. And yes, I am innately shy and horrible at selling things and knew nothing about a state budget before I started. Yet, I had to get these people to write letters to their senators about this issue, while I stood there on their stoop. I saw the inside of hundreds of houses, talked to cops, kids getting high, ancient old men, guys with tear tattoos, tons of moms, Hasids, you name it. I even got some guys who thought they could holler at me from their car to write a letter to their senator.
The thing I really came away from the experience with is that while our country is so polarized among Democrats and Republicans there really aren't that many differences among actual issues when you sit down and talk to people. You might get the occasional guy who wants to talk for an hour about how Reaganomics could have worked, or the occasional woman screaming at you to get your socialist/marxist/fill in the gap ass off her porch, but really that was pretty rare. The majority of people know someone who is a fireman or a teacher or a nurse, and everyone knows someone who's unemployed if they aren't themselves. Everyone I met, with the exception of one very drunk woman, cared about New York kids getting decent educations. While I talked to people who identified as Republicans, Democrats, and Independents there was actually very little difference in their opinions of the specific issues. The vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans in general do not fit in the above 500,000 a year tax bracket and that makes most of us feel like we're all in this together.
So the Working Families Party was created with this concept in mind. Back in the 19th Century this thing called fusion voting was widespread across the U.S.. Fusion Voting is when two or more political parties support a candidate and then their votes are pooled to make it possible for that candidate to win. This makes it possible to support an individual candidate when you might not want to support his official political party. This way people like my Dad (who think Democrats are masquerading Republicans) and people like say a New York cop (who doesn't want his buddies to think he's gone all soft on them) can vote for the same person without the division and labeling of our two party system. It also means that people like me who might have just voted Democrat before can show the Democrats that I'm paying attention and I support actual change in education, progressive tax systems, environmental issues, and wallstreet accountability by only voting for their candidates on the Working Families line.
In order to get the support of the WFP a candidate has to be on the same page with their issues. When they get the endorsement they get to be on their own party's ballot line and the Working Families ballot line. They also get a ton of kids like me banging on people's doors telling the world to go vote for them. And if for some reason they turn face when they get elected they will definitely be held accountable and it won't be pretty.
So really, lets get our shit together and vote this year. The whole point of voting for the Working Families party is showing these candidates who are running that you actually care about equality and progressive action in New York and in the country as a whole. That we want to be represented by those who want to move forward. That yea we voted for Obama but we're still paying attention and we want them to actually help him out and stay on top of him at the same time. I promise that everything the Working Families Party is working for and the actual people that are working for it , that they are just as exciting as everything that made you go vote in 2008. So lets keep up the momentum!
In honor of our many varied New Yorkers I have three excellent celeb endorsements for you. Cynthia Nixon, Pete Seeger, and Matt Damon are all voting on Row E (update its Row D now!) for the Working Families Party.
You used to be able to find videos on youtube of Cynthia Nixon getting really riled up at PTA meetings. That was when I first noticed that this Sex and The City Star had a progressive agenda for New York. I loved her as Miranda and I really love this new video she just made about supporting the Working Families Party. She has been supporting the WFP monetarily and vocally for quite some time now.
Also deeply loved is Pete Seeger. His support of the WFP is in keeping with his history of support for working Americans. When his career began the labor unions were making this a safer more livable country for all of us. Pete sang about and supported them and still continues to support equality with his support of the Working Families Party.
Just the other day Matt Damon released this video on his birthday, asking you to please vote for the Working Families Party. If 200,000 people vote Working Families, Matt Damon, the Boston born Red Sox fan will shoot another video wearing a Yankees hat.
To learn more about the Working Families Party go here or here. If you don't live in New York you can still vote Working Families in Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Delaware, Vermont, and Oregon. Please go out and vote this Tuesday!