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Working Families Party Betrayal

Sunday, 22 June 2014 11:49 By Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report | Op-Ed
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo after delivering his State Budget Address in Albany, N.Y., Jan 21, 2014. (Photo: Nathaniel Brooks / The New York Times)New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo after delivering his State Budget Address in Albany, N.Y., Jan 21, 2014. (Photo: Nathaniel Brooks / The New York Times)

As the Democrats bear steadily rightward, their so-called “progressive” camp followers do likewise. In New York, the Working Families Party endorses businessman’s champion Andrew Cuomo and, in Chicago, an SEIU local donates $25,000 of the members’ money to corporate mayor Rahm Emanuel. From compromise to collapse, the left-liberals and union careerists are on the road to oblivion.

Supposedly progressive politics in New York offer a cautionary tale for leftists across the country. The Empire State has a Democrat-in-name-only governor, Andrew Cuomo, and a mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, who gets more credit for being progressive than he deserves. New York also boasts a party, Working Families, whose name implies integrity it doesn’t possess.

Andrew Cuomo came to office and made beating up on public employee unions his first priority. He forced state workers to take pay cuts allegedly in exchange for job security but then laid off some of them anyway. Cuomo stood by while corrupt Democrats in the state senate cynically switched sides and gave Republicans the majority in that chamber and deprived the people of representation they had voted for.

The governor’s strategy of currying favor with the right wing continues unabated. When de Blasio proposed modest protections for public schools vis a vis charters, Cuomo delivered a very public smack down, and gave the charters more funding and political protection than they have anywhere else in the nation.

Nonetheless, de Blasio was among the cheerleaders at the Working Families convention urging an endorsement of Cuomo’s re-election campaign. In a video appearance Cuomo said that he would fight the “ultra conservatives in the Republican Party.” His combative spirit didn’t last very long. Just a few days after Working Families took a dive on his behalf, Cuomo thumbed his nose by announcing more tax breaks for big business and singing the praises of his Republican friends. “The lack of partisanship in Albany is something that I am very proud of. Democrats, Republicans we're New Yorkers first and that's how I govern and I'm not going back.” He also backtracked on a promise to help raise the minimum wage across the state. “I oppose municipalities being able to set their own wage. I did and I do.”

The Working Families party and the unions who fund it certainly hope that voters are stupid. They first claimed that they wouldn’t endorse Cuomo but after having done the deed changed their stump speech to claim that the stab in the back was an act of political shrewdness. Pundits outdid one another claiming that the betrayal was proof of progressive power when it was in fact just the opposite.

The pathetic showing is evident not only in New York but across the country. In Chicago, SEIU Local 73 made a $25,000 contribution to mayor Rahm Emanuel, champion of pushing the neo-liberal agenda in one of the country’s major cities. Emanuel’s lay-offs of teachers and other public employees and attempts to cut pensions apparently aren’t serious issues for SEIU. In New York or Illinois or anywhere else in the country, working people have few champions in the smoked-filled rooms of politics.

Black Agenda Report coined the phrase “black misleadership class” to describe the politicians and movers and shakers who promote their own interest at the expense of the masses of people. Labor unions are also part of a misleadership class that does much the same thing. It is true that the attacks on public employees and the de-industrialization of America devastated big labor. It is also true that they often snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The card check process would have made it easier for workers to unionize but it was never a priority of the Obama administration or Democrats in Congress. You certainly wouldn’t know that it failed by looking at labor union efforts to reinstall Democrats time after time. The Working Families Party in New York State exemplifies a much larger problem.

Unions provide good jobs to left leaning people who, like the black misleaders, then become part of a self-interested group with pretensions of fighting for those outside. They then become even more powerless because they have no intention of putting up a political fight. Despite the assaults on working people by the triumph of finance capital and ever-rightward shifting politics, big labor and their allies could do more.

The Working Families Party in New York could have declined to endorse Cuomo. There was no down side to letting him swing in the wind. The WFP might have exacted concessions but we’ll never know because they threw in the towel and handed victory to their enemy.

There was nothing shrewd or brilliant about the Cuomo endorsement. It is just the latest pathetic effort which shows the decline of the Democratic Party and of progressives who claim they want to fight back. There are so many misleaders and so little time.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

Margaret Kimberley

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.


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