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Building a Party Vehicle, with Maurice Mitchell (Working Families Party) Live From Rising Majority Congress 2024

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Block & Build
Block & Build
Building a Party Vehicle, with Maurice Mitchell (Working Families Party) Live From Rising Majority Congress 2024

Cayden is joined by Maurice Mitchell, National Director of the Working Families Party, live from the floor of this week’s Rising Majority Congress, a week long gathering of over 700 organizers and activists on the left, working in diverse coalition to strategize a plan for the next 10 years while envisioning goals for 2050.

In this episode, Maurice speaks to Working Families Party’s role in strategy as they engage in political endorsement and organizing across the country at the local and national levels. They explore the type of party vehicle we need to build and drive to reach the long-term goals of a multi-racial, working class led political future and how we co-operate amidst our diverse range of needs and issues.

To connect with Maurice and WFP:

Text WFP to #30403 and find them on all social platforms as @workingfamilies

Text MOE to #30403 and find him on all social platforms at @mauricewfp

Support this show and others like it by becoming a subscriber of Convergence:

[00:00:00] Cayden Mak: What’s up, y’all? Welcome to Block and Build, a podcast from Convergence magazine. I’m your host and the publisher of Convergence, Cayden Mak. On this show, we’re building a roadmap for the people and organizations who are trying to unite anti fascist forces in order to build the influence of a progressive trend while blocking the rise of authoritarianism in the United States.

[00:00:17] For the next month, we are streaming most of our interviews live on YouTube. It’s one of the perks of being a member, but we wanted to let everyone know that it’s something that we offer during our Summer Fund Drive. If you want to support us during the Fund Drive, you can find all the ways to do that at convergismag.

[00:00:30] com slash donate. Here are some ridiculous headlines from the week. It’s a doozy. We’ll start in Louisiana where the governor, Jeff Landry, just signed a new state law this week that requires the 10 commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom. And he said, quote, I can’t wait to be sued.

[00:00:48] Landry said that before signing the law, laying bare the Christo fascist agenda. of forcing their worldview on us and also leveraging that stacked court system. Meanwhile in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have both indicated an interest in banning masks in public places.

[00:01:05] This is a move we’ve seen in North Carolina and let’s be perfectly clear, despite their claims to the contrary, this kind of ban is specifically designed to crush protest movements. The collateral damage of this, of course, is The literal ability of sick, disabled, immunocompromised, or just plain reasonable people to participate in public life.

[00:01:23] The science says that masks work, and the COVID 19 pandemic is still here, in large part because our leaders keep trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. Following up on last week’s discussion about privacy concerns with Adobe Software’s Terms of Service, which were updated three days ago to assure users that they won’t use your data to train AI.

[00:01:43] They face another run in with the FTC, which announced this week that they are suing the owners of creative applications Photoshop, Premiere, and more for hiding early termination fees from customers. President Biden also signed an executive order on Tuesday aiming to recoup some support from immigrants in swing states.

[00:02:00] The order allows undocumented spouses to apply for citizenship directly rather than upending their lives to return to their home country and applying from there first. A lot of people didn’t know that this was the case, but it definitely was the case before. It’s not as easy as just getting married for a green card.

[00:02:15] While this is a big deal for some undocumented folks, it definitely does not undo. The effects of the draconian border shutdown and asylum policy he and the Democrats signed off on last week also as you may be aware, we’ve been tracking representative Jamal Bowman’s race next week on Tuesday, June 25th against APAC sponsored opponent, George Latimer in the New York state primaries.

[00:02:38] Emerson polling recently showed that AIPAC’s 14. 5 million investment pushing Latimer towards a significant lead over Bowman. But we know lots of organizers on the ground in New York who are pushing through these final days to make sure that all that money goes to waste. Finally, the first presidential debate between President Joe Biden and the White House.

[00:02:56] Donald Trump will be hosted by CNN on Thursday, June 27th, in case that’s a thing that you want to do yourself. To discuss some of this especially those primary races and the role of political parties in our system. On today’s show, I’m joined by the national director for working families party, Maurice Mitchell.

[00:03:12] Maurice is also joining us live today from the week long rising majority movement Congress as it’s wrapping up its final days, and we’ll definitely talk about that a little bit, but Mo, how are you doing? It’s probably been a long week, huh? 

[00:03:23] Maurice Mitchell: Well, it’s good to be here. It the last week has been a long year.

[00:03:30] Absolutely. Yeah. Just listening to you run through those headlines. It’s just, it’s almost overwhelming to hear how much the right is coordinated, how much they’re using, where they have governing power, they’re using it to its maximalist impact. And I just hope that our side could build that level of like desire.

[00:03:52] To wield power, but for the interest of the many and not the few 

[00:03:56] Cayden Mak: that’s right. Yeah. I know I feel like a lot of times when we do the headline rundown the sort of like Energy is so wow, the deck’s really stacked against us. And I also hope that in some ways, picking these headlines as a little bit of Hey, you’re not nuts.

[00:04:11] They’re doing this, like this is part of their like long term strategy to use every apparatus that they can capture. 

[00:04:19] Maurice Mitchell: That’s right. And what I always try to focus on is because when you hear that litany, it’s easy to fall into some sense of despair or powerlessness or cynicism or nihilism.

[00:04:32] And I try to remind folks that those two, that feeling is a project is a political project. It’s right. It’s a part and parcel of their decades long political project is creating this haze. of cynicism and despair and loneliness and a feeling that, you can’t fight city hall, you can’t fight corporations, and so the best thing you could do is maybe just put your head down, take care of yourself and maybe your family and get through your life.

[00:04:59] That is a design. That thought process is a political design of the far right. We have to push back on that. We have to remember that we are protagonists and whenever society has shifted for the better, it has been through the protagonism of everyday working people and everyday working people showing up together and organizing through labor movements, through grassroots movements, through various organizations that come together in order to shift the power balance.

[00:05:26] of the people. And we always need to be reminded of that. Especially when we hear that litany, because it could just feel like, oh god, it’s the everything is stacked against us. They have the courts, they have this, they have that. Why even fight? 

[00:05:38] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah, I think that this is always why I enjoy talking to you.

[00:05:42] Because Bringing us back to that big picture is so important, right? That we are, these things are designed and therefore they can be undesigned. Yes. It takes humans to do that. 

[00:05:54] Maurice Mitchell: There’s no guarantees and anything that isn’t growing out of the earth organically has been created by us, right?

[00:06:02] Like people say this is arbitrary, that is arbitrary, whatever. Like I love every year. I love how there’s this whole discourse by the right wing that’s just fundamentally anti black, right? Where they’re like, Kwanzaa is a made up holiday. I’m like, every holiday is a made up 

[00:06:19] Cayden Mak: holiday. Where do 

[00:06:19] Maurice Mitchell: you think holidays come from?

[00:06:21] You think they emerge from the ground? So yeah, a group of people made the holiday up at some point, everything we do is made up. And what’s exciting about that is that everything we do could be remade, Remixed, unmade, reimagined from how we govern ourselves to the nature of our relationship to one another, our relationship to our government, how we think about everything under the sun could be made and remade by us.

[00:06:46] And every day is all of us. Reaffirming the current structure, but at any given day that, that contract could be undone or re imagined or renegotiated through organizing. 

[00:06:59] Cayden Mak: Absolutely. Well, I think that brings us to a really I feel like one of the things that I really wanted to talk about you a little bit with me a little bit is like, how did working families party arrive at your current analysis of the S this system as it is.

[00:07:17] And what is the like. Sort of intervention that logically leads from that. If you could talk a little bit about getting there. 

[00:07:26] Maurice Mitchell: Sure. So we arrived at it carefully and humbly and through struggle, like the working families party is 25 years old and it emerged at a moment in our politics where the democratic party lurched dramatically to the right and dramatically towards wall street.

[00:07:45] And they did. What is known as triangulation. They’re like, well, we’re going to take economic ideas and other ideas from the republicans. We’re going to steal their ideas. We’re going to, in some ways, bifurcate social rights and economic rights. So we’ll provide social rights to various people in our coalition and, thin social rights, And the economic agenda, we’re going to work that out with people from Wall Street.

[00:08:11] It was like a the DLC era of the Democratic Party. There were a lot of folks in labor and community organizations that were deeply opposed to this. They formed the Working Families Party because they reasoned that they needed to get the An independent political vehicle and that the Democratic Party could not hold their aspirations.

[00:08:30] And through that struggle, we’ve developed our theory of how to build a independent party in a rigid two party system as well as our analysis of the given moment. And things have shifted. from that moment in the late nineties of where we are now. And so our current analysis is that the current sort of struggle in America has four features.

[00:08:53] Number one, there is class de alignment that’s taking place where working people of all races are dropping out of politics altogether. And some of them are moving towards right wing politics, right wing ideas. That’s happening every single cycle, every single year. So that’s number one. Another feature, another structural feature, is the MAGA takeover of the Republican Party.

[00:09:21] So MAGA is the current name for a particular white Christian nationalist movement. political movement that has always existed, but it was on the margins of the Republican Party. The Republican Party was happy for them to be part of their coalition, but the more corporatist faction of the Republican Party were the people in power that has shifted the white Christian nationalists.

[00:09:44] now run the Republican Party. And from 2016, when Trump took over till today, they’ve consolidated and institutionalized MAGA from, entities like the Heritage Foundation right, to the Republican base, to, to my Republican politicians, you now, for the most part, if you want to get elected as a Republican, you need to adhere to MAGA principles.

[00:10:07] You need to almost take a oath of loyalty to Donald Trump, right? So that’s a consolidation that is, is really important for us to wrestle with. The third thing. The third thing is the corporate capture of our government, including the Democratic Party. So there’s large swaths of the Democratic Party that are in a regular conversation with various forms of capital and corporate America and the real estate lobby and the pharmaceutical lobby and aren’t in a real relationship with their constituents.

[00:10:40] And then the final thing, and this is What makes our party form in our analysis, particularly to us, we believe that the two party system itself creates a structural barrier for Our forces for people on the left or for working class people who may have a lot of ideas to maneuver and to be able to express themselves politically.

[00:11:01] And so that’s our overall analysis. And our solution is to work inside of the confines that we have in this rigid two party system to express ourselves as a political party and over the long haul, create the space so that we could have a multi party democracy in the future. 

[00:11:21] Cayden Mak: Amazing. Yeah, I, I think that the, those four sort of features that you’ve identified feel like they speak to so much of the like frustration and confusion that I think a lot of people are feeling right now about being locked in this like 2020 redux situation, right?

[00:11:40] But why are we here? And I think that those four, to me, speak very clearly to the why of how we got to this place. 

[00:11:48] Maurice Mitchell: Absolutely. It’s important that we talk about the why, because if there is no why, then, naturally, we will fall into despair, we will fall into cynicism, when it’s wait, so, The same candidates are on the ballot and we’re facing a mass movement that’s calling for justice.

[00:12:04] Wait, that was 2020. That’s also 2024. Why are we repeating this? Why is this on syndication? Why is this happening? There are structural reasons for it happening, right? The other thing I would say is that every four years, we are forced into, These intense contradictions that are part and parcel of the design of our first past the post winner takes all two party system, where it’s a binary choice on the top of the ticket.

[00:12:32] That’s, that feels very disempowering and frustrating. And it’s important that we understand that the conditions and the structures have put us in this position, not each other. Because one of the things I also want Like I am the spreader of this world of this word, whatever the outcome of the election is incumbent on us as people who are organizing working class people for us to be more united, more sophisticated, more organized coming out of the election than we came into the election, whatever the outcome is, and so we shouldn’t engage in quarrels about the electoral choice and the binary nature of the electoral choice because That was not our design.

[00:13:14] We should be looking forward to building a strong movement because that’s the thing that over time will actually help change the outcomes and help actually change those structures. So we’re committed to building a multi party democracy. We also understand that won’t happen next week, tomorrow, next month, it can happen.

[00:13:33] And we have a roadmap to building a grassroots party from the ground up so that we could have nice things that we could be proud of our. electoral choices, and we could be proud of our strategy, right? The last thing I’ll say is that you can’t tell much about a particular electoral choice or a particular endorsement, right?

[00:13:54] What I like to say is that, one of the things that the system attempts us attempts to get us to do is to pull us into thinking that elections and voting are like, we’re almost like spectators in the sort of theater of sport of elections, or we’re consumers, right? And our vote is like a little shit.

[00:14:17] It’s a little like coin, and we get to take our vote, and we get to spend it. In politics, or we’re simply watching like we watched MSNBC or CNN or Fox News and we’re listening and we’re spectators and we’re putting money on. Oh, is this guy gonna win or that guy gonna right now? That is to me the way that neoliberal logic attempts to present politics, the spectator or the consumer sort of approach.

[00:14:47] And for us, yeah. For people who are interested in building collective power, we need to look at politics as being a venue for our collective action, and we need to look at voting as not being a valentine. It’s not about, oh, I like, or I dislike, or I trust, or I don’t trust this person or that person.

[00:15:06] It’s really about. When we collectively develop a strategy and that then we have a particular set of tactics, some of those tactics are electoral. So the question is, inside of our strategy, our long term strategy, what is the electoral choice that will give us more space to maneuver and more time to build?

[00:15:25] That’s the question. And then looking at the MAGA agenda and looking at the neoliberal sort of democratic agenda, over four years, what is the terrain that will give us the most space? So that we can maneuver and express ourselves and give us more time so we could build our project. Right. And, so happy that so much of your space and time is spent on articulating the sort of block and build framework, because I think that is, a perfect framework.

[00:15:55] Like we, we must block MaGA. We must block fascist. But if that’s the only thing we do, then what we’ve done is like we put all of our energy towards blocking a clear enemy. But then we’ve, we’re now going to pivot to a moment where people who don’t have our prerogatives will Quickly take that momentum and then advance a neoliberal sort of watered down agenda.

[00:16:17] We have to build something when we earn that space, we need to use that space and build our own independent vehicles and build our own independent agenda. 

[00:16:27] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Well, and I think that’s what is the most troubling about. Only looking at this year as a time to block MAGA again is that that is fundamentally a like small C conservative position, right?

[00:16:41] Is it’s like preserving the existing order against something else, right? And I’m really glad that you use the word neoliberalism because I’ve been thinking a lot about, what a lot of like thinkers and people have been talking about the crisis of neoliberalism, but that neoliberalism is such a Core part of our popular and political culture that like, we don’t even know, like the tendrils that it has on us.

[00:17:08] Right? And I think that one of the things that I’m really interested in about the work that you all are doing at WFP is thinking about politics as the activity of collectivities, not of individuals. And that there’s like something. Like offering this sort of opening and like trying to crack the door on what is post neoliberalism look like for the left?

[00:17:31] And so I’m curious to hear from you a little bit about what the role of a political party in that landscape is and what how you all are taking on that sort of it’s not just about politics. It’s also about economics. It’s also about culture and like how you understand that broader expanded field of power.

[00:17:49] Maurice Mitchell: Absolutely. So, so there’s a lot of ways I could define a political party, but one way of understanding a political party, it’s like, it’s a shared political commitment. And inside of that shared political commitment many different actors could build a particular political culture and be committed to a particular strategy or governing North Star.

[00:18:13] And so imagine a space that includes everyday voters, elected officials, aspirant candidates, labor unions, organizations people in the media like yourself, talking heads and thought leaders and intellectuals, right? Folks who are producing sort of ideas and people in the academy. Operating in their different fields.

[00:18:41] But the thing that brings them together is a sense of alignment around a party’s North Star and a party’s sort of governing principles, right? A party isn’t simply raising and spending money to get somebody elected. That is one function of a party. But a party is actually a space where people could make meaning of the moment.

[00:19:02] People could align around a strategy and people could actually build this culture Of collectivity. It’s this idea of party unity and party discipline. Disciplining around what around a shared idea about how we believe we want to be together, how we believe an economy should relate to its people, how we believe we should be in relationship to government and to the state.

[00:19:27] Right? And so that happens inside parties. I don’t believe that could happen. Individual activists by individual activists, which is One of the reasons why I’m investing so much of my time and energy in party organizing. I believe that our forces, and look, our forces are diverse. I believe that our forces across a movement with a lot of different ideas need to come together and hash out those ideas and be able to like be able to take advantage of our diversity of ideas and tactics under one shared governing philosophy.

[00:20:03] That’s what a political party is. And what we do is it’s also a process. So the more that we do that, the more that we confront really challenging ideas. Let’s say on the local level, we have WP has local governing bodies. that include activists, that include organizations. We’re a hybrid party, so our members are organizations that are people’s organizations, like independent unions and grassroots organizations, and individual activists.

[00:20:29] We want to create venues so that they could struggle together around strategies, so they could struggle together around, well, There’s an opportunity for a progressive to win this city council race. What does it mean for our strategy? Not just like getting them elected, which is great, but getting them elected for what, to what end.

[00:20:46] And then if there’s an opportunity for progressive and there’s multiple progressives in the field, how do we decide? Which progressive or which union organizer and what is the path to victory for us and how do we deal with the hard questions of once we get elected, how do we govern together when people engage in that conversation, everyday people who are not like just paid organizers or whatever, but like everyday people and organizations that are people’s organizations that are wrestling with real questions of internal democracy.

[00:21:19] So with really hard strategic questions, we believe that our people are maturing in there and developing in their political sophistication as strategists, because what we need is a movement of multiple leaders and multiple strategists and a party is a venue to actually develop over time. That’s strategic acumen.

[00:21:39] And also a place where you could learn how to win and lose debates. We actually learn how to debate. We learn how to struggle around really hard ideas where it’s not clear what the right path is, right? It’s not easy to discern. Should we go left or should we go right? And so we have the party. To make that decision together and learn together, we might learn.

[00:22:01] All right, we decided to go left and we might learn oh, ultimately, that was a suboptimal decision, but we learn it together. And wherever, whatever side you might have been on that initial debate, we stay together because the party is the shared vehicle. What I like to say is that thinking of that sort of analogy of a shared vehicle.

[00:22:19] All right, once you get in the car, we agree that all right, like I’m getting in the car in New York, We’re going to the bay. We know that there’s many different ways to get there. Once you’re in the driver’s seat, you might decide to take toll roads, right? Maybe other people might take the, another route, the scenic route.

[00:22:37] No route is the quote unquote, right route. And we’ll learn things for taking one route or another, and whether or not we take one route or another, that isn’t reason enough for us to leave the vehicle, or perhaps if there’s a song on the radio that you dislike. You wait until that song ends and then you turn the radio to another station.

[00:22:56] You don’t jump out of the vehicle before you get to the destination or while the vehicle is in motion. So this idea of the primacy of the political vehicle, the primacy of the political vehicle over the a candidate or a candidate choice or over a particular tactical choice. We understand that we might disagree on tactics, but if we share the destination, we stay in the vehicle and we keep the vehicle strong so that we all could get to that destination together.

[00:23:24] Cayden Mak: Yeah, it’s an interesting take on political parties, I think, for us in the U. S. who are used to the sort of U. S. expression of political parties, which is like really vague, to be honest, like the I think a lot about how, I live in the Bay area and one of the interesting things about the Bay area is you basically can’t get elected to a local seat if you’re a Republican.

[00:23:46] Right. So like everybody runs as a Democrat, like the like ideological and policy and ethical concerns of the people who run as Democrats here in the Bay area are all over the map. Right. Like they’re everywhere. There’s no vehicle by which, aside from the, aside from a primary, to really talk about what that means, right?

[00:24:09] And I think that people who are maybe casual observers are just I don’t know what casual observers here in the Bay think, because I’m definitely not a casual observer of our local folklore thing. You 

[00:24:18] Maurice Mitchell: probably don’t hang out with a lot of casual observers. 

[00:24:20] Cayden Mak: Yeah, I spend a lot of my time with people who are as you say, see themselves as protagonists.

[00:24:25] So, but I think it is perplexing to then think about what does it take to build a party that maybe has a little more in common with the kinds of parties that we’re familiar with seeing in more like parliamentary systems? 

[00:24:37] Maurice Mitchell: Yeah, that’s actually, one of, one of our challenges is like the party idea as we’re articulating it has not changed.

[00:24:46] fully been expressed in the modern era in the United States. So the people that were organizing into the party, the individuals, the institutions, they don’t have an experience of it. And so, which is why I say the party is also a process. We are both becoming a party together, and we are a party, right?

[00:25:06] We’re slowly becoming And learning feebly and humbly and awkwardly how to be a party together, how to stay united across difference, how to struggle across really complicated conversations and debates around strategy and to hold that inside of a party. And you’re absolutely right. There’s places where.

[00:25:24] Basically, if you want to be in public office, you have to be a Democrat. So what that means is that people who have the ideas of quote unquote, a Republican or ideas of a Democrat will run as a Democrat if they actually want to get into office, it also means that. Organized capital sophisticated.

[00:25:41] They’ll elect anybody. So they’re very happy to elect, Democrats who are people of color who are young people to advance a corporate agenda and run them in Democratic primaries. And people will say all types of things, right? The word I’m a progressive. What does that really even mean? Right?

[00:26:00] Exactly. There’s a lot of people who use that language. There’s a lot of folks who are people of color who will point to, historical sort of movements and liberation movements, but then You know, basically be aligned with the real estate lobby, right? And try to get elected using the sheen of, and the in our imagination, the idea of some sort of left.

[00:26:23] And so one of the things that we hope we do, and we try to help to do is to, through our endorsements and through. The folks who see themselves as WFP adherence, who are inside of WFP and are elected officials, we hope to make some coherence and clarity about all right, who’s actually a person who’s running in a Democratic Party, who is committed to and accountable to people’s struggles, and who are who’s choosing not to be right.

[00:26:52] That’s an important sort of contrast in the Republic, the Republican Party where it doesn’t exist, can’t show that contrast. And so we’re, Where we know, like in the Bay, yeah, you’re going to elect a Democrat. Who that Democrat is actually is really important. Like I learned early on, yeah, that a D next to your name is insufficient information to know what this person actually will do in office and having a party as a place that you could engage with that person.

[00:27:19] You could learn their strategy. You could actually govern with them in meaningful ways. Like we’re doing in Philly, for example, with. minority leader, Kendra Brooks, and Nicholas O’Rourke, the minority whip. We’re really governing. They’re passing groundbreaking legislation in, in, in Philly City Council.

[00:27:37] People were like, okay, we get that you’re going to run your own people, but how are they going to govern? And we’re proving that independent, working people who come from the community, somebody like Kendra, who is a working class black mother from nice town. When you build a people’s movement around them, not only can they govern, they could govern in dramatically transformative ways for everyone.

[00:28:02] And so the example of Kendra Brooks and Nicholas O’Rourke and the fact that in Philadelphia, It’s a two party city, Democrats and Working Families Party. Those live examples are really important because they pierce this sort of challenge of our imaginations, that we can actually believe and touch and feel a party in process.

[00:28:23] And so there’s a point to what we do. It’s We have to demonstrate that it’s possible for people to get on board. And so, which is why I say the party is a process. The more that we do it, the more people are able to believe that it could actually happen, that we could actually on our own, independent of the Democratic and Republican Party, build our own independent political vehicles that could operate with sophistication and governance.

[00:28:49] Cayden Mak: Yeah, I feel like we should say this again, that the city of Philadelphia is a two party town and the two parties of the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party, because I think a lot of people outside of Philly probably don’t realize that, right? That that is a specific expression of it it’s a it is like a data point that shows what is possible.

[00:29:08] Right. And so I’m interested in hearing more from are there other examples from around the country you could point to that give us data points of what this looks like in practice that like illuminate what the path forward might? 

[00:29:20] Maurice Mitchell: Yeah, so the way that I like to explain. How we approach third party politics.

[00:29:26] So we live in the world that everybody else lives in where there is a rigid two party system and the first past the post electoral system makes it very hard to express ourselves as an independent party. We live in that world. And so we like to say that we’re a non delusional third party because we live in the world that everybody else lives in and we aspire to a multi party democracy.

[00:29:49] And so we’re committed to things like fusion voting, We are a party legally and fiscally. We have our own ballot line. That’s true in New York, Connecticut and Oregon. But I also like to say we cook. what we have in the kitchen. So most states do not have fusion voting. So we don’t stop there. We don’t stop at state lines and say, Oh man, we can’t organize the working families party there.

[00:30:14] Because for us, a party is a group of people coming together using elections as the main intervention to advance a particular agenda. And So we are agile. We use fusion where we could use it. Use it. We’re on the ballot in those three states in places like Philadelphia, where there’s a minority party set aside on in the municipal government.

[00:30:39] We challenged the republicans and we kicked them out of city government. We challenged the republicans to have that minority party status. And then in other places, we show up as a party by primarily using open seats where we use the primary. And if there’s a open seat and there’s contention for who fills that open seat, we will recruit independent working families, persons to run in the Democratic primary, or we’ll identify corporate Democrats or Democrats that are not responsive to their to their constituents and primary them with Independent working families, folks.

[00:31:17] And so just to give us, give you some examples and then occasionally very rarely, but occasionally we have run. in a general election, a working families party, only person and one. So two examples is a lot of people know Tish James, who is the attorney general of New York. She started her career as an independent working family city council person, and she ran against the Democrats and Republicans, and she won.

[00:31:44] Jumani Williams, who’s the Who’s currently in city government in New York as the public advocate, he started as an independent working families candidate for city council. So on occasion we will run a, as a third party candidate in the general election. But for us parties are about organizing winning, right?

[00:32:04] So we will only do that if there’s a path to victory. Right? Even if that path is hard, we’re not gonna waste people’s time, energy, money, organizing strategy on failed candidacies. So there’s a path to victory. We’ll do that. Otherwise, we’re going to use democratic primaries and struggle through the democratic primary.

[00:32:21] So and our bread and butter is local races. So on the municipal level and on the state legislature, state legislative level, we are surfacing independent leaders who can win there, and then they could go all the way up to the federal level. So Delia Ramirez in Chicago Summer Lee in the Pittsburgh area Greg Kazar in the Austin area, they all started on the local level and they rose up, Brandon Johnson was Cook County commissioner, and now he’s the mayor of the third largest city in America.

[00:32:53] So there’s another story here about like we endorse. people every cycle. There’s another story here about focusing on the politics that a lot of people don’t focus. Like right now we’re talking about blocking and building in the top of the ticket. But for the Working Families Party, our bread and butter are the races that people often don’t talk about from Sometimes school board to city council to state legislature where we’re very interested because that’s a place where we can contest for governing power.

[00:33:23] And that’s how you build the sort of pipelines and the road, the roadways for higher governance, right? 

[00:33:30] Cayden Mak: Right. 

[00:33:30] Maurice Mitchell: We currently believe that our movement has some great skills and capacities and the ability to protest anywhere, which is a powerful ability. When things go awry, when there is a crisis when there are contradictions that can’t hold, our movement rises up.

[00:33:46] Like folks are rising up right now for a ceasefire in Palestinian rights or four years ago For black. For black life, right? But what we lack is the ability to govern almost anywhere. And we believe that there is a path to governance for our movement over the next decade that is about building this capacity on the local level and then.

[00:34:07] And then constantly developing that capacity so that we could actually, as a movement, govern a state and then eventually govern this country. The thing that parties think about very seriously and believe is that every party, small and large, believes that their ideas should be the main ideas. Every party is thinking on a hegemonic level.

[00:34:27] What I mean is thinking on the level of being able to govern the entire society. and govern the entire country with our ideas. And so what we’re thinking about is what is the 20 to 25 year path to actually governing the United States? We believe that starts on the local level. That is about state by state being able to aggregate the power of governing states and to surface people who are ready and prepared to govern on that level, right?

[00:34:56] We want to make sure that our victories aren’t premature. Sure. Because if we win premature victories, we understand we won’t have the capacity to be able to hold tho those wins, build on those wins and continue to govern. And so. On top of winning elections, we need to make sure that the ancillary forces are aligned, the ability to surface people who actually could make sure that the trash is picked up when it needs to be picked up.

[00:35:20] And because what’s your governing, you’re governing everybody. Right. You’re governing all of our forces. And the last thing I’ll say is that’s one of the reasons why our internal democracy and the places that we struggle together are. It’s practice. It’s practice to learn how to govern ourselves so that we could govern society.

[00:35:37] Right. When you’re governing everybody, that means that the things that we do, we’re governing, MAGA people, we’re governing people who are aligned with us. We’re governing people who are cross pressured ideologically. We’re governing people who don’t have a, have an ideology. And what they need to do is experience, experience their experience of governing with us is that experience needs to be liberatory and whatever their ideology, they need to say, we like that team.

[00:36:03] When that team is in power, good things happen. I feel more openness. I feel more connection. I feel like the commons are things that I could access whatever they believe, right? So governing is a very weighty responsibility right now. I’m at the rising majority Congress where it’s mainly people who are part of who are self identified as part of the left.

[00:36:24] And we’re struggling around all types of issues. When you govern, imagine what it’s like to struggle with everyone. Right is a very weighty responsibility, and I feel like we need to develop those capacities over time in order to take it on. And I look forward to it because the thing that I think makes us different than the other side.

[00:36:42] The other side seeks to use government as a tool to redistribute cruelty. We seek to use government as a tool to redistribute our compassion. And so, yes, like I can’t wait to be in a position to govern People who are adherence of MAGA, right, and insist that their Children are fed and that insists that they get quality health care just like everybody else, right?

[00:37:06] What they often do is when they get in power, they seek to use it as a tool to advantage, quote unquote, their side and to punish the other side. And so we have very different governing philosophies. I believe that once we govern in a very serious way, we will be able to recruit and win over many more people to our side and to make our ideas majoritarian.

[00:37:28] And I honestly believe that’s what they fear. They know that once we govern, our ideas will be popular and they will work. They don’t fear our ideas not working. They fear our ideas working. That is to me, the biggest fear of the far right is us getting into a governing position and then us being able to express our ideas to everybody, especially the working class.

[00:37:51] They know that their goose is cooked once that happens because our ideas on top of being visionary and transformative, they’re practical. I’m not giving up pragmatism to the other side. I’m not giving up pragmatism to the neoliberals. Neoliberal ideas are not practical. They’re very impractical, wonky, and complicated because you need to shoehorn this idea into the market for no reason.

[00:38:13] That’s great, yeah. It’s Our ideas are the most common sense of practical ideas. They know that’s actually what they fear. And that’s why I’m so convicted around us being in a governing posture, because I believe that’s how you break the dam of imagination. Once people experience, for example, what it’s like to have a truly universal single payer healthcare system, they’re not going back.

[00:38:35] They won’t. And that’s what organized capital fears, that’s what the sort of the neoliberal tinkerers and the gradualists fear, that’s what the far right fear. 

[00:38:45] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Well, and I think the other thing that I really want to lift up about what you just said, too, is that in addition to the fact that local and state government is where the pipeline, the leadership pipeline comes from, it’s also where there is an enormous amount of power that we have historically left on the table, right?

[00:39:07] And that actually, the far right, For the past 5060 years has been using the states as ways to enact their agenda right that like the way in which like the capture of courts gerrymandering all that stuff happens is a lot. It starts on the state level, that a lot of those things are happening in state legislatures, in state courts state supreme courts.

[00:39:31] And I think that this, the thing that you’re talking about it serves a dual purpose, right? It’s it is both the way that we get into formation with each other, the way we get into practice with each other and it is the way that we start unrigging a rigged game. And I find that to be like, that sort of dual purpose thing is that seems incredibly practical to me as well, right?

[00:39:51] That’s 

[00:39:53] Maurice Mitchell: Oh, absolutely. What I the thing that I like to challenge in the discourse about The right wing. They’re not magicians. They’re not even that smart. They just had a plan. Yeah. Like that is the main thing that they had. They had a plan and they were very loyal to that plan.

[00:40:10] Right? And the plan was like a road map. It wasn’t, Even a detailed plan, right? But it was a roadmap that they stayed very loyal to, and they spent a lot of energy creating that loyalty to the roadmap and look during the 50 year sort of road that they have trotted to where we are today.

[00:40:29] They want some. They lost some. They made some mistakes. They made some innovations. They weren’t perfect again. They weren’t magicians. But having that fealty to a plan turned out to be very helpful to them, right? And also, it meant that they were committed over decades to building right now. We tend to be super tactical.

[00:40:52] And because Transcribed We, and there’s a, there’s reasons for it. It isn’t just there’s structural reasons for why our plan game isn’t as consolidated, right? Like they are very strong in their ideology. Our ideological for parents were systematically either jailed killed or co opted. Right.

[00:41:16] And so, and they had a easy path to building their ideology. Right. From Red Scare to COINTELPRO to, there’s so many examples about how the state and the FBI and the police and, various political coalitions saw the ideological project as of the broad left as an existential threat and attacked it.

[00:41:39] And that wasn’t what happened on the right. They had a glide path. So we shouldn’t, I think, feel like we are the reason for this asymmetry, but it’s important for us to perceive the strategic and ideological asymmetry and structural asymmetry so we could do something about it. What we need is organization.

[00:41:59] What we lack is organization and a North Star and a plan. And that’s what we’re building. That’s what a party is. And we need more organization outside of the WFP. But we believe that a party is an essential piece of infrastructure and organization. And you’re absolutely right. Once you have a plan, and you have that organization, then recruiting people for makes a lot of sense.

[00:42:24] Outside of that, it’s well, why are we working on these like measly school board races when we could be doing other things? 

[00:42:30] Cayden Mak: Sure. 

[00:42:31] Maurice Mitchell: Inside of a 30 40 50 year plan, it makes a lot of sense. And having that 50 year arc sort of discipline is going to be really important for us. I think what they did in 50 years we could do in 25 years.

[00:42:43] I think under the right conditions, we could do it in a decade. But we have to be plan builders and organization builders. We can’t simply be activists that we can’t simply opportunistically wait for the next whirlwind moment or the next movement moment in order to surface people to hit the streets.

[00:42:59] That’s where we’re strong. We need to continue to be strong there. And we need to be curious about how do we build a shared sort of road map. It doesn’t have to be super detailed. We don’t have to be dogmatic about it, but a shared road map of the North Star that we’re heading towards and how do we create connectivity across multiple actors so that we all don’t need to get together and sing Kumbaya around a fire in order to enact the plan, we can move in our different lanes and have a political sort of division of labor as we achieve the plan.

[00:43:32] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah, sure. Totally. Well, as we wrap up here, I’m curious if there is anything that you want to lift up that you’ve seen in the last week at the RM Movement Congress. Because I know that based on some things that I know about the space that RM is also trying to convince, they’re trying to also figure out what That’s Other structures need to exist for our movements.

[00:43:55] If there’s like things that you want to point at or that you’ve heard that you were like, hell yeah, that thing. 

[00:44:00] Maurice Mitchell: Yeah. What I’m excited about and I’m here at the rising majority Congress is that folks are talking about a plan. Folks aren’t just talking about between now and November. In fact, most of the conversation is about over the next 10 years and folks are talking about a array of tactics, from tactics that are completely outside of government.

[00:44:20] Right? How are we setting up new economies? How are we building, different ways of creating mutual aid till electoral strategies? And, one of one of the reasons why I’m here is I’m sharing what we’re learning, right? I think what’s exciting about What I’m hearing here is I’m beginning to see the sprouts of an aligned left movement that also sees itself as part of a broader united front against fascism, against global fascism, and there’s an understanding that there needs to be a consolidation and alignment of that left.

[00:44:55] But that’s not the only work, right? And that ultimately, if we seek to have the things that we desire, that the left, who I think has Amazing ideas and principles needs to be working class facing needs to engage the working class with a lot of thoughtfulness, sophistication, a lot of humility in order to socialize some of these ideas and struggle back and forth with the working class.

[00:45:21] If we just remain a hermetically sealed left, opining about the world, but not organizing our people, then I think we’ll miss this opportunity, and there’s a real opportunity in this moment where people are asking themselves fundamental questions about what direction we want to take the world.

[00:45:39] People. All over the spectrum are reconsidering neoliberalism for the first time, and we need a left that is facing the public that can engage those questions with a lot of curiosity and bring people along. And so the fact that I’m hearing that desire here is very exciting. 

[00:45:56] Cayden Mak: Yeah, no, that’s beautiful.

[00:45:57] That’s so it makes me feel it also makes me feel optimistic and hopeful. And I hope that. It’s the same for others. It’s great. Well, thank you so much for making the time to chat. It’s always great talking to you. I always like, leave our little chats being like, yes. Okay, here we go.

[00:46:14] Let’s do this. 

[00:46:16] Maurice Mitchell: I really like my job. I’m an organizer. 

[00:46:21] Cayden Mak: Hell yeah. Well, I hope to chat again soon. I hope to see you again soon. Where can people find the working families party? Where can people learn more about your work? 

[00:46:29] Maurice Mitchell: Okay, so folks want to tap in with the working families party, they could text on their phone WFP to 30403.

[00:46:37] They could go to at working families on most social media or working families. org. If people want to engage me, they could find me at Maurice WFP on all social media platforms. And they could also text Mo, which is short for Mo. Maurice for short, right? M O E to 30403 and they could tap in with me and I’ll be sharing.

[00:47:01] I’m always on the road, so I’ll be sharing my road journal with folks who are tapped in on self 

[00:47:07] Cayden Mak: awesome. Great. Well, thank you again. I’m sure we’ll talk again, soon. This show is published by Convergence, a magazine for radical insights. I’m Cayden Mak. Our producer is Josh Elstro. If you have something to say or a question about anything we talked about today, please drop me a line.

[00:47:22] You can send me an email that we’ll run on an upcoming episode at mailbag at convergencemag. com. If you’d like to support the work that we do here at Convergence, bringing our movements together to strategize, struggle, and win in this crucial historical moment, you can become a member through our brand new membership portal at convergencemag.

[00:47:40] com slash donate. Even a few bucks a month goes a long way to making sure that our independent small team can continue to build a map for our movements. You can also find links to that and all the resources Maurice shared in the show notes. I hope this helps.

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