Skip to content Skip to footer

How the Working Families Party Is Building Progressive Governing Power, with Maurice Mitchell

Hosted by
Article published:
Hegemonicon - An Investigation Into the Workings of Power
Hegemonicon - An Investigation Into the Workings of Power
How the Working Families Party Is Building Progressive Governing Power, with Maurice Mitchell

In this latest episode looking at “What We’re Building,” Hegemonicon host William Lawrence talks with Maurice Mitchell, National Director of the Working Families Party (WFP). The WFP aims to become the leading political home for US progressives. It has built a reputation for staking out strategic electoral engagements on a state-by-state basis that have yielded some major victories in the political arena.

In this conversation, William and Maurice move between big-picture strategies and the nuts and bolts of WFP’s operation. They discuss the party’s hybrid governance model, its process for making election endorsements, and the infrastructure it has developed to navigate disagreements within its ranks.

Moving outward, the two talk about how to navigate relationships among growing left organizations such as WFP and the Democratic Socialists of America (featured on the show’s previous episode)—and they tackle the strategy needed to block the Right in the electoral arena while building stronger coalitions with progressive leadership that can anchor future work.

Support this show and others like it by becoming a Patreon member at

[00:00:00] Maurice Mitchell: If a Democrat or Republican has control of Congress, like if this speaker of the House is a Democrat or Republican, we believe that that matters enough for us to endorse somebody. Who isn’t a hundred percent aligned or may not be very much aligned because on top of electing people who are WFP champions and come through our pipeline a Strategic imperative is depriving [00:00:30] Republicans from governing power.

[00:00:36] William Lawrence: Hello and welcome to the hegemonic on I spent my 20s as a member of grassroots social movements, most prominently as a co founder and national leader of Sunrise Movement. The youth organization that put the [00:01:00] Green New Deal on the political map. Now I’m in my early thirties, trying to make sense of what we’ve collectively learned in this last decade plus of social movements and heightening social crises.

[00:01:10] I talk with activists and researchers on the left. Exploring the guiding theme of power, what it is, how it’s exercised, and how it’s distributed.

[00:01:25] Hello, folks, and welcome back to the Hedromonicon. Over these [00:01:30] next couple weeks, we’ll be landing the plane of our series on what we’re building. Last week, we spoke with Ashik Siddique and Megan Romer of DSA, the largest socialist mass organization in the United States, and an organization that aspires to become a mass political party of the working class.

[00:01:48] This week, I’m speaking with the director of another organization that has won major victories in the political arena and which aims to become the leading political home for U. S. Progressives. I’m very honored to be [00:02:00] joined by Maurice Mitchell. The National Director of the Working Families Party. Maurice, thank you so much for being here.

[00:02:06] Let’s just begin by having you introduce yourself and, uh, sharing a bit about you and how you ended up in your current role.

[00:02:14] Maurice Mitchell: Sure. Uh, well, it’s really good to be here. And, um, you know, um, our relationship predates this show, so it’s just really great to see you and, uh, looking forward to the conversation. So, just a little bit about [00:02:30] myself. Uh, I grew up on Long Island on the South shore of Long Island in, uh, a Caribbean immigrant household.

[00:02:40] Both of my parents were, were union members. My 11, my, uh, my mom was 1199, um, nurse, um, in Far Rockaway. My family came here through my grandmother, who came here during the sixties and worked as a domestic worker. [00:03:00] And a lot of who I am and how I think about the world has been really shaped by my family and my family’s experience.

[00:03:08] Uh, and my experience in this is sort of, uh, extended family of a lot of aunties and uncles and cousins, uh, growing up in the 80s and 90s. And, uh, you know, also, you know, my My mom’s from Trinidad. My dad is from Grenada. I, I was born when Grenada wasn’t, since Grenada’s a tiny [00:03:30] island nation of no more than a hundred thousand people.

[00:03:32] But when I, when I was born, Grenada was an independent black socialist Republic. And Grenadians were very, very proud of their country. And, um, very, very proud of the New Jewel movement and Maurice Bishop. And a lot of the really remarkable reforms and changes that happened. in those few years, and then the unfortunate, uh, collapse of, of that, of that, um, movement.

[00:03:57] Um, and, uh, I started off [00:04:00] youth organizing when I was pretty young. Uh, I, my first, my first sort of volunteer campaign effort happened when I was in middle school. Um, you know, I, my first organizing campaign was in middle school and high school on, on capital punishment. I went on to do campus based organizing at Howard University, and that brought me into a lot of work around the criminal legal system.

[00:04:27] My first direct action [00:04:30] was a direct action at the Department of Justice after one of our classmates, Prince Jones Jr., was killed by an undercover police officer. Um, Eventually, I left campus and I went back home and I did grassroots organizing on the hyper local level for around seven years, working on a number of issues, um, at a very, very small under resourced organization on Long Island, working on educational equity and working on environmental justice [00:05:00] and tax fairness and working to build bases of power across Long Island.

[00:05:06] It’s a really big region, and I was the only organizer initially and had to work to build a local organization with very real very limited resources and capacity and, and just kind of had to sink or swim. Um, then eventually once I hit some barriers, like the limitations of what you could do on the hyper, hyper local level, working with community members, uh, and it was mainly in [00:05:30] working class communities of color across Long Island.

[00:05:33] I got involved. In the electoral site of the struggle so that we could create more space for our bases of power to be able to advance our agenda. And I was working on legislative races and eventually was part of the coalition that, uh, worked to flip, initially flip the state legislature, the state senate in New York from red to blue so that we could pass some pretty groundbreaking legislation.

[00:05:58] And, uh, [00:06:00] eventually I started doing regional and statewide work. I helped, I helped to launch a statewide collaborative that worked on civic engagement work, um, with a number of organizations up and down, uh, New York. And, um, and while I was doing that, I also did a lot of movement work outside of some of the work that I did that was more structured organizing.

[00:06:23] Uh, you know, I was involved in a chapter member of critical resistance, which, um, really [00:06:30] like created a lot of the, the intellectual and organizing sort of, um, infrastructure around what is now like the abolitionist movement. I was involved in Malcolm X grassroots movement. Um, and, uh, did a lot of work with Malcolm X Grassroots Movement for many, uh, for many years.

[00:06:47] And, uh, uh, I worked with the People’s Self Defense Project, which was the cop watch, uh, project in Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Very proud of that work. And so I was always doing sort of movement work as well as [00:07:00] more structured work. And, um, in 20, um, in 2013, when Trayvon was killed, I organized mass mobilizations in New York.

[00:07:09] And I was really struck by the limitations. of those mobilizations and the fact that, you know, people hit the streets, but his family didn’t experience justice. And in 2014, when Michael Brown was murdered, I remember after that feeling really compelled to do more and to really lean in. So in 2015, when Michael Brown was murdered, I [00:07:30] really leaned in and I, um, I found myself working very closely and embedding inside of the Organization for Black Struggle, uh, in St.

[00:07:40] Louis, and I left the work that I was doing in New York. I left my family, my job, my community, um, uh, my apartment, packed it up, and I embedded, uh, on the ground in St. Louis at what would be ground zero for the movement wave that we now talk, talk to, talk [00:08:00] about and refer to as the Movement for Black Lives.

[00:08:02] Um, and I was You know, in the early moments, maybe like a week or two after Michael Brown was killed when, and I was just so blown away and inspired by the people of Ferguson and the people of St. Louis, um, who had responded to Michael Brown’s murder with just like uncommon bravery and valor and really, I think, transformed my life, um, and transformed the lives of many, [00:08:30] many other people.

[00:08:31] And I and, uh, a number of folks helped to build the, what would, the nucleus of what would become the Movement for Black Lives and scale that over a few years to become a. an international movement. And in 2016, um, you know, at the same time that we’re scaling the movement for black lives, Donald Trump rode this white Christian nationalist wave to the White House.

[00:08:56] And I think for a number of us, um, it was a very [00:09:00] humbling moment. Um, and I didn’t, like, I didn’t anticipate that Trump would win. I wasn’t one of those, like, soothsayers that I, I, I couldn’t imagine a world. I grew up in New York, so I grew up. with Trump being Trump. Right. So I couldn’t imagine how he could 

[00:09:16] William Lawrence: actually.

[00:09:16] Yeah. 

[00:09:19] Maurice Mitchell: Yeah. Yeah. Um, uh, but he did, he did win. And I think my assessment was that we had to engage in the electoral front of the [00:09:30] struggle. We have to take it seriously and we had to approach. elections, even in the unsatisfying rigid two party system and with unsatisfying choices, usually at the presidential level.

[00:09:43] We, as social movements on the left, had to engage that and have a say as to what we thought was the better of binary choices. And, um, and that it wasn’t true. Um, [00:10:00] that two choices that are significantly different, but maybe not our choice were the same. That’s actually not true. And it’s important that we that we say that is like nuances our friend and we’re leaving power on the table.

[00:10:14] And so I started to develop projects with folks in the movement for black lives, like the electoral justice project. I just came back from the 10 year movement for black lives membership convening, and it was It was just very satisfying in [00:10:30] Atlanta. It was satisfying to see the electoral justice project and what it’s become.

[00:10:34] Um, but I was one of the folks who started to develop that. And when Dan Cantor, who’s my predecessor, when he announced that he was leaving, I was organized to, um, approach taking on the challenge of, of leading WFP in this political moment. And that was in 2018. I’ve been at WFP for for now more than five years, and the [00:11:00] thing that I think brought me to WFP was, you know, I’ve had this like these varied experiences from doing structured organizing on the hyper local to statewide level from from doing inside outside sort of work in New York State and the legislature doing electoral work on the local and statewide level.

[00:11:19] Um, eventually being at the ground level of a social movement and catalyzing it to become a social movement. Um, to become a force and, you know, leaving, [00:11:30] leaving each one of those experiences, I noticed like the, the impact and the power of particular tactics, but also the limitations and I definitely coming out of the, the, the movement for black lives experience, I noticed the social movements where, when they’re at their very best, they’re able to, you know, and it’s almost like cliche.

[00:11:48] People talk about the over 10 window, but it’s true. Like, You’re you’re able to surface these contradictions that that are present, but just most people aren’t really paying attention to or are grown to accept these as [00:12:00] just features of their day to day lives. And social movements could surface those contradictions and have everybody look at them in new ways and call really big questions.

[00:12:10] And I saw that happen. But what I also learned was that social movements didn’t necessarily have the the capacity to answer those questions or to resolve those contradictions. And the most organized forces will attempt to resolve the contradictions and answer the questions that are [00:12:30] presented by social movements.

[00:12:31] And, you know, like taser international, right. As an example, they. You know, they, um, their main product were tasers like these nonlethal weapons, but they also marketed body cameras and they offer that as the solution like that was going to reduce significantly reduce the extra judicial killing of black folks right now, fast forward a decade.

[00:12:56] Yeah, there’s body cameras everywhere. Like that was. Capital’s [00:13:00] response. And, you know, in some ways we created a market, right? And they answered, uh, but we still don’t have lasting, uh, a lasting sort of, uh, response that is a movement response to the crisis of black people dying every single day. And so I wanted to, like, We need the essential movement power, but we also need to answer the question.

[00:13:24] And for me, that lies in governing, like our movement needs to govern. Then our, [00:13:30] like, then social movements that are aligned with us can push the window, call the question, and then movement aligned elected officials in governing, governing positions, secure victories that are aligned with the movement and answer these questions because government.

[00:13:49] Actually, there is a path for everyday people and people without resources to seize the reins of government. It’s imperfect. It’s corporately captured, but there’s still a path. And so government [00:14:00] is a vehicle that if we commandeer, um, we could do really big things and we, it has the capacity to take on.

[00:14:09] Some of the questions that we’re trying to answer. And so the ideal vehicle to be able to govern is a political party. And that’s really what brought me to the Working Families Party. 

[00:14:21] William Lawrence: Thanks. Um, you know, it’s not a good feeling to be part of a social movement and, uh, set the stage for [00:14:30] some new change to occur and then realize that it’s some of the worst people in the world who get to sit at the table And actually like taser international.

[00:14:40] I mean, we have our own version of that, uh, with the green new deal, uh, that you and I both did a ton of work to, uh, uh, help, um, spur and promote. And, um, you know, there’s been some good that has come out of that. Uh, and also, uh, some of the worst people in the world, but fossil capitalists, [00:15:00] even some green capitalists who are not really our friends.

[00:15:02] Um, have now taken that whole thing in a, uh, in terms of what we actually won through the inflation reduction act, um, to do a lot of bad. Um, and, uh, I, I don’t want to, I don’t want to do that again. I want to be able to set the agenda and then win on this solution. So I’m with you on that. And I think there’s a lot of people who are somewhere between your age and my age who went through this last 15 decade, 15 [00:15:30] years of, uh, You know, movement uprising, um, who have learned some version of that lesson, which is why I think the notion of party building is really high on the agenda now, uh, for a lot of people on the U.

[00:15:44] S. Left. Um, but let’s talk about what it means to build a party. The Working Families Party describes itself as quote, building a multiracial party of working people transform our country. What, in your definition, Maurice, Is [00:16:00] a party. And is WFP a party? Or is it in the process of becoming a party? 

[00:16:09] Maurice Mitchell: Great, great question.

[00:16:10] Um, I’m going to answer it in a few ways. Well, let me answer the last part first, because the last part is the WP a party? Or if it’s a process, if it’s in process of being a party, the answer is yes, right? And, um, because a party in some way is a process. Like when I talk about governing power, [00:16:30] governing power isn’t a like a static destination.

[00:16:34] It’s a process. Governing is a process. And so, you know, you know, if you’re let’s just you know, whoever’s listening to this, you probably live in a city or town that has a city council or a town council or whatever. Um, let’s just say if progressives win one seat in that city council or town council, progressives or the left or whoever aren’t governing, right?

[00:16:59] But [00:17:00] they have more governing power. then they would have had if they didn’t have that seat. In the next cycle, maybe you’ll get another seat. You don’t have a majority yet, right? So, governing power and governing and being a party is, is, is a, a process that, um, doesn’t necessarily have a destination. But, to answer your question, I’ll answer your question in two ways.

[00:17:21] Our definition of party is not limited to, because people ask us because we’re actually, legally and fiscally, A political [00:17:30] party in Oregon, New York and Connecticut, and we leverage the power of fusion voting, um, and the fusion law in those states in order to do that. So sometimes people ask us, well, is, is, is your definition of party relate to fusion?

[00:17:46] And because that doesn’t, that’s not true everywhere. And it’s like, well, no, uh, fusion is very helpful. It’s a tool. Um, but state by state by state, the election law is very, very different. And the thing that connects everything that we do. And we [00:18:00] operate in 20 states. We have party structures in more than a dozen states.

[00:18:06] Um, the, the, the thing that connects all of, all of our work is the fact that parties ultimately are people who are freely assembling coming together. Their main intervention is electoral work. Um, that work is cohered by some sort of agenda and that agenda is aligned with a coherent ideology. And so [00:18:30] When that all of those things are coming together like you’re a party.

[00:18:33] Um, but I think it’s worth going a little bit deeper. We also believe that party is infrastructure. And so every single election we’re building more and more in the independent working families party infrastructure. Um, and there’s many different categories of infrastructure, but any party has its own distinct brand.

[00:18:58] has its own distinct [00:19:00] set of issues. Its own distinct ideology. Any party has its own distinct donor base, its own distinct candidates, its own distinct candidate pipeline, its own distinct data infrastructure that is distinct from other parties. And so we build from the ground up our own data infrastructure.

[00:19:19] We, we support efforts to have movement owned, uh, infrastructure so that the movement actually is owning the means of political production. [00:19:30] Um, and so that infrastructure can’t be taken away from us. Um, it’s not owned by like private capital, all those, all those sorts of things. And so cycle after cycle, um, we’re building the capacity to actually, uh, be a third force in American politics.

[00:19:48] Last thing I’ll say around that third force piece is that on top of building a party, We’re also building a center of gravity, and this is important because parties are not static, right? Let’s just take, for [00:20:00] example, in recent memory, um, we saw how the Republican Party has been captured by the MAGA, white Christian nationalists.

[00:20:10] force center of gravity and pulled it into its nexus. And so even though those people were always part of the, or not always, but for generations, part of the, the Republican, um, the Republican coalition, those entities and those voters weren’t at the center. They weren’t shot callers. [00:20:30] And those voters didn’t necessarily command control over it.

[00:20:34] the Republican primaries, but that’s true now. So it shows that, that, um, parties can, can move. Like we could take another example, look at, look at how the Democratic party under Bill Clinton moved to the right. Or, I mean, if you want to take a big historical example, well, you know, back in the day, originally the Republican party was considered the left party and the [00:21:00] Democratic party was considered the right party.

[00:21:02] And, you know, My, the trivia I always use with folks is like, when I ask folks, like, which, which American party did, did Karl Marx most identify with when he was alive? You know, most people don’t realize it was the Republican Party, right? So it shows that political parties are not static. They can move.

[00:21:18] They can even move left to right and right to left and all types of things. And so based on that analysis on top top of building this infrastructure, we’re also building a center of [00:21:30] gravity that could pull our entire politics closer to working people. We’re building a labor working people poll in American politics.

[00:21:39] And over the next, like, 25 years, our job is to make that a very strong third force in American politics. Right now, there’s a very clear, uh, right Christian nationalist force. There’s a pretty clear center left, center right, sort of neoliberal consensus ish. force. I say ish because, you know, they’re [00:22:00] questioning the, the, the tenants of neoliberalism in some ways.

[00:22:04] So I don’t want to, I want to be precise. And we, we believe that there needs to be a very strong labor poll that is distinct, uh, from those two other forces. Uh, so, so we’re both organizing that poll and organizing a party and infrastructure, um, state by state by state, locality by locality on a granular level.

[00:22:26] It, um, to build around that pull that. So that’s, that’s what we’re [00:22:30] building. That’s our definition of a party. Um, and our assessment is that party building takes time. Building something like a third force in American politics takes a lot of effort. And, um, it’s something that we think can be done. It’s something that we think, you know, is within our power to do, but it requires a level of discipline and north star focus in order to make happen the type of discipline that You know, the far right, for example, I think, had like, you know, we’re now like more [00:23:00] than 50 years after the Roe decision.

[00:23:03] You know that the far right developed infrastructure capacity had a strategic North Star over 50 years, and we’re experiencing the result of that. And so I think one of the things that’s also true is that the left has been deprived of. Through a lot of like very specific targeted efforts has been deprived of organization over generations and our [00:23:30] ideas are really popular.

[00:23:31] Um, in moments of, of, of great contradiction. Um, the left is able to show up in large numbers and these movement moments happen. Um, we have a lot on our side, but we’re missing them. Um, the durable and and the resilient organization to be able to leverage all of the things that we have. And that’s the work, I think, of of years of maybe even decades.

[00:23:59] [00:24:00] And, you know, again, like there’s features that are are way above my understanding or perception that could accelerate that. But I think if we if we have a decades long approach, which requires a certain level of focus, rigor, consistency, integrity, Um, uh, it’s gonna require like, you know, you talked about cadres gonna cry some cadre.

[00:24:21] Um, if we have that focus, then we’ll be able to take take full advantage of and leverage the moments that might allow us to accelerate. So I can’t say [00:24:30] when we’ll be at a place where that third force And the third party will be around that third force, but I have a blueprint that at working families party we’ve developed and that we’re attempting to execute cycle after cycle after 

[00:24:44] William Lawrence: cycle.

[00:24:44] So these two objectives of building the party and building the center of gravity are Related but distinct. And there are lots of, um, other groups who may be thinking they’re trying to do either, um, [00:25:00] one or the other. Like, um, if you were trying to build a center of gravity, um, but not building a center of gravity.

[00:25:07] Third party and waiting. The theory might be that we’re just going to realign, um, the Democratic Party to become more of a progressive Labor Party. Um, and there’s not going to be the need for a third party because we’re going to build a center of gravity and the Democrats will end up, um, being that thing.

[00:25:26] Um, are you convinced [00:25:30] that, um, That realignment strategy is not the way, which is why you are explicitly building a third party in waiting. Or is there some ambiguity here where you think maybe the Democratic Party could have Um, uh, take on, you know, a, a dramatically different brand and identity and be accountable to working class people, but maybe not.

[00:25:55] And if it ends up not going that way, or there’s a crack up in the two party system, [00:26:00] you want to have the option, you wanna have the infrastructure as the working families party to be able to step in in that moment, even if you’re not sure if that option will, uh. We end up needing to be exercised. 

[00:26:15] Maurice Mitchell: Um, so there’s a debate inside the WFP about the looking at our current time, place and conditions, what the democratic party, [00:26:30] um, as a vehicle can do or can’t do.

[00:26:33] Um, but the role that we play, we play this role that I think is, is very nuanced because. Because of the nature of the very rigid, first past the post, two party system, um, which is just true, it’s real, it’s a material reality of today, we play a factional role inside of the Democratic Party coalition, right?

[00:26:55] And like, this is another example of force, right? The Democratic Party [00:27:00] has a, has a gravitational force that is pulling all of these Entities around its orbit, just like gravity. You don’t have to agree with gravity to have it keep you on the ground, right? 

[00:27:13] William Lawrence: It’s like, it is 

[00:27:15] Maurice Mitchell: what it is, you know, so flat earthers are also held to the ground.

[00:27:20] Just like me and you, right? It doesn’t really matter. And so like, there’s a lot of people who are part of that center of gravity and part of the, who like have a lot of critiques might even like dislike the [00:27:30] democratic party just is what it is. Right. Um, and so. Oftentimes we operate inside of that coalition.

[00:27:37] We operate inside that coalition as part of the big, you know, Cheney to Chomsky united front that agree that fascism is bad, right? Like we’re in that. Um, and there are people inside the party and and other folks who think that the Democratic Party is reformable, redeemable, [00:28:00] flexible and through organizing can be the labor poll party of our dreams.

[00:28:05] And we just, the work that we have to do as a movement is factional inside the Democratic Party. There are people who believe that, um, because the Democratic Party includes large columns of organized capital, that at a certain point, um, Um, that, um, the contradictions will create a rupture. And if [00:28:30] under the best conditions with all the great factional organizing inside the Democratic Party, at some point, something’s going to give right.

[00:28:38] And so, you know, both arguments are compelling for different reasons. We’re building independent infrastructure and an independent party infrastructure, uh, vehicle, because in both scenarios, building that independent party infrastructure actually advantages. Both of those scenarios. So the [00:29:00] people who are like dedicated to moving the W uh, moving the democratic party and organizing it factionally, having the WFP as an independent party vehicle helps make that happen for people who are actually like.

[00:29:17] waiting for there to be the rupture. Well, when that rupture happens, people are gonna need a home. People gonna need infrastructure. People are gonna need like state by state vehicles that are ready to roll in order to capture them. [00:29:30] And so in both eventualities, Um, when we came out, both of those, those possibilities, um, we’ve, we’ve organized a long term sort of path to power that, you know, allows our infrastructure to be useful for both of those, both of those possibilities.

[00:29:48] William Lawrence: Interesting. Um. Yeah, it makes sense to me. Um, because either way, the work you got to do now is is the same. Uh, and it’s about [00:30:00] being flexible about the battle line, seeking independence and every opportunity you have to claim it. Um, and then engage in politics such as it is, uh, each each election cycle.

[00:30:14] Maurice Mitchell: Yeah. And the one thing I’d offer is that and the reason why we put a focus on organization is the one way that I think, uh, would be a mistake. Is if we just offer the Democratic [00:30:30] Party as an institution our votes because we are rational actors and we’re afraid of, and you know, we have a grounded fear of the potential for authoritarianism without building our own independent organization, then, you know, we’re engaged in a united front strategy with factions that we agree on, like the big goal, which is like, deprive the right wing and MAGA from governance.

[00:30:58] But then we [00:31:00] haven’t, we haven’t created the structures to, like, stand up for our faction in that coalition. And then we end up feeling really, really disappointed when we, like, in earnest, show up and do our part in that united front effort, and then afterwards feel like we got the short end of the stick, which is why it’s important that we participate.

[00:31:23] Principally, and collaboratively, in that united front effort, but in a manner that that [00:31:30] builds independent movement 

[00:31:32] William Lawrence: power. Rather than just doing the liberal’s job for them.

[00:31:39] Maurice Mitchell: Hi, this is Kayden, the publisher of Convergence magazine. There are a lot of places that you can put your hard earned money in support of our movements, but if you’re enjoying this show, I hope you’ll consider subscribing to Convergence on Patreon. We’re a small independent operation and rely heavily on our readers and listeners like you to support our work.

[00:31:56] You can join us at patreon. com slash convergence mag [00:32:00] Subscriptions are pay what you can but at 10 bucks a month You’ll get goodies as well as knowing you’re helping to build a better media system One that supports people’s movements and fights fascism and if you can’t afford it right now, don’t worry All our shows will be free for you to enjoy You can also help by leaving us a positive review or sharing this episode with a comrade.

[00:32:19] Thank you so much for listening Mhm. 

[00:32:24] William Lawrence: Tell me about W. F. P. S. Governance model as it stands now in New [00:32:30] York, you got started as an alliance of unions and community organizations with those various stakeholders represented on a governing board is my understanding. In more recent years, um, some of the more Establishment leaning unions have have left the party.

[00:32:46] Uh, other organizations have joined. Um, and you’ve made some steps, I think both in New York and nationally towards implementing an individual. Membership model, and I may be [00:33:00] oversimplifying it, but I’m really a little unclear on where it all stands now. So, uh, recognizing that there’s state W. F. P. S. And then there’s the national W.

[00:33:08] F. P. Um, how is W. F. P. Governed? How are major decisions made? And what part of that is still?

[00:33:19] Maurice Mitchell: Sure. Um, well, like I’m gonna answer this the way I would answer the last question. It’s constantly information, right? Right. But, but, [00:33:30] um, because it’s a process, right? But, but more specifically, um, most decisions that people identify as WFP making a decision, um, happens on the local level, state by state by state by state.

[00:33:43] And, Each state, um, each chartered state has something called the state committee, which is, um, in most states, a grouping of, of independent democratic entities like labor unions or grassroots [00:34:00] people’s organizations and activists. They come together and they Make decisions on endorsements and most of our endorsements are non controversial sometimes they are they’re like sometimes there’s like two progressives in a race or There’s you know a really progressive person But it’s unclear what their path to victory is or we have limited resources and there’s like five excellent [00:34:30] candidates But we only have enough resources to really throw down in two places and all these things Um Those are the people who are entrusted in figuring out the nuances and coming, ultimately coming to a decision on those things.

[00:34:43] And those decisions aren’t made discreetly. The big decision that those people make locally is struggling. Uh, and developing a long term path to power. So in every place where we have a chartered state, [00:35:00] we also have a path to governing power that isn’t just about getting Democrats elected. It’s actually about creating the conditions where we are a movement.

[00:35:12] Progressives people on the left can govern. Um, and that path to power is not just something that there’s no, there’s no path to power at WFP. That is like next cycle. We’re going to govern the state. Um, but each path to power is based on a very sober [00:35:30] material. assessment of the power that we have, the power that we need, geographic and demographic realities, the capacity that labor might have or grassroots organizations might have, the power of our movements.

[00:35:42] Um, and so that really informs on the local level how people make these decisions. Um, you know, it’s the job of the staff of the WFP to help organize the container and the conditions for folks to be able to make those decisions in a thoughtful way, uh, to make those [00:36:00] decisions and struggle in a way that is generative.

[00:36:02] Um, and to build very strong tables that are both powerful and fair because in any decision of consequence, there will be people who are beyond one side or or another. And it’s critical in that decision making process that people leave with more connection to the political vehicle. Um, and so that’s state by state by state.

[00:36:27] Most of W. F. P. [00:36:30] Decision making is happening on that level. There is a National Committee and the National Committee is in part made up of, you know, just like there’s an RNC and DNC. This is the WFNC, right? And so the National Committee is made up of delegates from each state. We also have national member organizations.

[00:36:49] Um, and so, you know, that includes the labor union, CWA and SCIU. It includes organizing networks, CPD, People’s Action. It includes, uh, [00:37:00] United We Dream Action, Surge, Standard for Racial Justice. It includes Mijente, um, and, you know, uh, the National Committee, uh, makes decisions if there’s interest from, um, from other national organizations about its membership.

[00:37:15] So the National Committee could grow depending on the current National Committee’s desire to bring on new membership and other things. But it’s a reflection of what’s happening locally and also, um, the national organizations that, um, agree [00:37:30] to be building the WFP. And we are a hybrid party. So it is a feature of the WFP that we are both, um, a coalition party, which means our members.

[00:37:41] Our institutions like labor unions and people’s organizations, and we have individual members who are activist members who are part of the WFP as well. 

[00:37:51] William Lawrence: So I want to ask about that. Why, um, is the hybrid model the one that, um, You have [00:38:00] chosen, but also continue to double down on and invest in, um, as opposed to a purely coalitional model or a purely member activist individual member model.

[00:38:16] Maurice Mitchell: Yeah. So, you know, WP is 25 years old, so we’ve arrived at this through our development. There are advantages and there are aspects of power that [00:38:30] come with coalition power, right? Um, we need the capacity to be able to, like, let’s just say we want to, we want to run a primary and win. A mayoral primary, we need the capacity and the resources that, and the infrastructure that comes with institutions that are grounded in a place that have maybe, you know, like labor unions that have like tens of thousands of [00:39:00] members that could knock on doors and through their member dues be, uh, offer political, um, political donations to a political project.

[00:39:08] And like, if we’re serious about power, uh, that is an essential piece. institutional power. Also, institutions, um, I think in a good way, um, are thinking long term, are thinking, are a little bit more averse to, to risk. [00:39:30] Sometimes that could be very helpful in the makeup of a strategic conversation. Um, um, but there’s limitations to being Only institutional, right?

[00:39:40] And we recognize that there is a value of having a mass base of activists, um, that go through a leadership development process that develop in their sophistication and strategic acumen that could offer insights and push [00:40:00] back against some sometimes like rigid institutional thinking. Um, and we actually think that creating the conditions Where there’s a healthy balance of those, and there’s a struggle that is like a healthy struggle and where individuals and institutions share a, a political project, we, we see that as like, kind of like the sky’s the limit in terms of the power that we could access because we have limited institutional power in our movement.

[00:40:26] Like I said, like we we’re, we’re the byproduct of, [00:40:30] of decades and decades of decades of, of dismantling, of progressive institutions. Um, and so. It’s to me that there’s a marriage of two holes that that are essential, and it that marriage is a careful, sort of delicate marriage. And so when we charter new states, We allow folks to come together, however they want to come together, in order to build that state.

[00:40:58] Um, but one of the [00:41:00] frameworks that we keep in place, because the bylaws of each state chapter are different, because states are different, and we want to, we want to make sure that we’re not, like, building a cookie cutter party that the party reflects the character of that state. But the, the, the ground rules for building the WFP is that you need to figure out how these two pieces, the, the coalition character and the mass character come together and make decisions and are respected as, [00:41:30] as equal parts of a whole.

[00:41:32] William Lawrence: So I, uh, you and I have both spent a lot of time, um, in the coalition world of nonprofit organizations. We’ve had some adventures together in that space. And, um, you know, uh, at times, um, I, I ended up feeling like table. Uh, for me is a dirty word because there’s so many tables of organizations. It can be [00:42:00] like a nesting doll of, uh, Russian nesting dolls of organs of tables, sitting inside tables, sitting inside tables.

[00:42:06] And, um, really the defining feature of a table often is that. It’s generated from the top down because some money is attached, and there’s a national or state funder who wants to see something happen in a given state or on a given issue, and they dangle some money out there, and they say, Hey, everybody come to [00:42:30] the table and get some of this money, and then everybody fights about the money.

[00:42:34] Sitting around the table and really people approach it in a kind of extractive way where it’s like, well, I’ve got to come here because I need to figure out how to get the, you know, how to get 50, 000 for my organization or whatever it is, and it can really lead to some, um, destructive and You know, negative some dynamics, frankly, where people come and they’re supposed to be building alliance, but really what they’re doing is fighting over the money and trying to, uh, deliver as little as [00:43:00] possible because they’re just trying to do their existing work, build their own organization, which is everybody’s prerogative is to try to build their own organization.

[00:43:07] But, uh, so these are some of the. You know, uh, . Yeah. Um, how do you prevent that from happening when you charter a state working families party? ? How can this be more than a a, a table Yes. In the negative sense and actually, um, be, start becoming, becoming a party, uh, that is more than the sum of its parts.

[00:43:28] Maurice Mitchell: It’s, that’s a great [00:43:30] question. Right. And, um, our current process. Is informed by every bad experience everybody’s had at any coalition or any table or, you know, um, and so number one, um, I feel like with what I’ve learned, I’ve learned about like coalitions and tables and other things. There’s this coalition or table math and I get it.

[00:43:58] It’s like, Oh, well, [00:44:00] we could, you know, if, if the more partners that we add to this, the stronger we are like a 20 group, a goal is weaker than a 40 group table. So let’s like make it as big as possible. Right. And I think what ends up happening is like you end up. Creating this dynamic where somehow 1 plus 1 plus 1 plus 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 3.

[00:44:25] Right? Because like everybody actually isn’t aligned. Some people are [00:44:30] simply there because one of their rivals is there. And so they’re kind of like lurking. Some people are there just to kind of extract money or maybe prestige or whatever. Sometimes there’s organizations are there. Are there because they’re tokens.

[00:44:43] It’s like, Oh man, we really need a black group. Let’s let’s call up this group. And that group is at that coalition and they, they could perceive their lack of power. So they feel weak. You know, it’s like all of the worst practices of like the nonprofit industrial [00:45:00] complex and all that stuff. Right. Um, so the way that we approach it, number one, you know, we, as the staff of WFP don’t like go into a state.

[00:45:10] Right? Like, what generally happens is that folks will hear about the model, will learn about the model, will somehow see an alignment between WFP as a political party and the work that they’re doing, and they’ll come to us. So what I say is that WFP [00:45:30] is organized and developed by people inside a state. So that’s number one.

[00:45:36] Um, we, we don’t, we don’t grow because like there’s some WFP directorate somewhere at national WP looking at a map of the United States and deciding like, all right, we need to like put a chess piece here. So that’s one thing, right? Um, And the model wouldn’t work any other way, because WFP requires a lot of effort, so you have to really be into it, right?

[00:45:58] Um, and it, and, and [00:46:00] from the extractive piece, that’s another thing, it’s like, it, there is a value of building the WFP, and I would argue that Um, it’s a very, very, very good investment if you’re serious about building power and you’re serious about building independent left progressive power. But that value, you can’t extract it in a year or six months or whatever.

[00:46:23] So it’s like there’s no point if you’re seeking some sort of like play for your [00:46:30] organization to build a W. It’s just not, it’s not like it’s not gonna happen that way, right? There is significant value for organizations and their power. Like as individual organizations and, and as an ecosystem and as a left, but it’s not easily extractable from WFP because you sit around a place and, you know, you send one of your staff people to a thing, whatever, you’ll be like, very, very disappointed.

[00:46:54] This is not the short pod you’re looking for. You know, yeah, it’s just not gonna [00:47:00] work. And so. And, and we, it’s, it’s our job to be able to discern people who, who actually really understand the the and get and believe in the ideological project of building an independent left that could govern. And so we rather work with fewer people who are more deeply ideologically aligned, uh, than a lot of people who are seeing some sort of like transactional hustle or whatever.

[00:47:28] And so that also [00:47:30] will play into who we choose, right? So instead of like every single organization and every single labor union, it will be the aligned labor and community partners that are showing up and actually have this crazy idea that we could build collectively our own party infrastructure. We could actually do it.

[00:47:50] And there’s an advantage to us doing it through WFP because WFP has been for 25 years building its own distinct brand and has its own distinct [00:48:00] data infrastructure and its distinct candidate pipeline and everything else. Come up with some bespoke way of doing it. We could work with comrades were trying to do it all over the country, right?

[00:48:11] Um, and so, you know, we’re in conversations with folks in a lot of states, and there’s a lot of excitement for the model, I think, because we’re very rigorous. And we take our time in building WFP and we’re not seeking meteoric growth and we’re not [00:48:30] entertaining any individual that says they want to build WFP somewhere and just saying like, yeah, just down, download the WFP charter kit and go ahead.

[00:48:38] Like we’re asking serious questions about their assessments of power and strategy and we’re making sure that they have a grounded assessment of their own power. In relationship to other centers of power, right? And so it’s a process, but one that ultimately is an ideological project more than anything else.

[00:48:58] Um, one that [00:49:00] certainly for individuals and institutions can provide real power. You know, like I talked to Karen Sharp, I said, is in action. Uh, she started Citizens Action of New York, and she’s one of the Citizens Action of New York is one of the founders of the New York Party, which was the original party, and she talks about how, as somebody who’s building an independent people’s organization, how being one of the co chairs of the New York WFP gave her and her organization significant power, because [00:49:30] even though she had bases of power in Schenectady and Albany and, you know, certain places, she didn’t have that power.

[00:49:36] A base everywhere. However, elected officials everywhere would attempt to engage her because they knew that she was one of the co chairs of the WFP and she could leverage that by getting them to take seriously citizens actions like statewide priorities, right? And so, um, again, it’s [00:50:00] Building the WFP is a crazy thing to do unless you actually believe in it.

[00:50:05] William Lawrence: Good answer. So I want to ask you about, um, uh, the, the DSA and WFP. Um, that’s another, another party, uh, or party information that, uh, some people are spending a lot of energy, um, to build because they really believe in it. And, um, you know, I’m a dues paying member of DSA. I’m, I’m also a dues paying individual [00:50:30] member.

[00:50:30] Of the Working Families Party. Um, and Uh, you know, this is sort of my philosophy in general these days is to be, uh, multiply affiliated because I, I don’t think we know exactly, uh, what the full answer is. And so I prefer to like be a member of the ecosystem. So I, I, I, I proudly join, um, multiple organizations.

[00:50:52] Um, but I, I hear a lot of shade flying in both directions between partisans of these two groups, you know, and, um, I, I think. [00:51:00] Uh, from the D. S. A. Partisans. I think the critique of working families I hear is for being foundation funded and thus beholden to, uh, the big funders who don’t necessarily share our ideology in full, whereas D.

[00:51:14] S. A. Is fully member funded. Um, D. S. A. Also critiques Working Families Party for, uh, Sometimes for this hybrid governance structure for being coalitional in structure and thus beholden [00:51:30] to the more cautious or liberal organizations that are part of the coalition, whereas D. S. A. Is only accountable to its members and its In general, I think the thrust of the argument is that WFP is structured in a way that requires it to make, um, too many concessions to the democratic political establishment and the political status quo, whereas DSA is able to be more boldly independent and left wing.

[00:51:58] And this even comes into the way [00:52:00] that then the two organizations. Brand and identify themselves where, you know, you talk about, um, working families and working people and, and, and, and labor power, um, uh, being progressive. Whereas DSA would, uh, talk about, you know, working class power, class power, and would, uh, proudly identify as socialists rather than, um, progressive, which is a bit of a more ambiguous term.

[00:52:24] So, um, What is your response to this critique from our comrades in DSA? Um, [00:52:30] what would be some of your assessment of DSA going back the other way? And how should all of us on the left be thinking about the difference between DSA and WFP? 

[00:52:43] Maurice Mitchell: Okay, well, let me try to take this piece by piece and I think the first way I would respond is with a lot of generosity, right?

[00:52:51] Like, I think ultimately you should engage me, critique me, evaluate me [00:53:00] based on my strategy. Right. And, um, you know, we’ve developed a strategic sensibility at WFP based on our assessment of the time, place and conditions. And the reality is like, History will ultimately be a judge to determine whether or not the things that we decided were the main premises, the main contradictions, the main struggle, whatever, were, like, were actually [00:53:30] the main struggle, right?

[00:53:31] Like, we can’t actually discern that from where we stand. And so I approach everything we do with a lot of humility. We could be right. I believe her right, but we could also be wrong. And, um, Malika, my son, he’ll have to like, he’ll have to ultimately deal with the fact of whether or not daddy’s project was like, was accurately assessing the conditions or not, you know, but, you know, we do what we do based on like, I think, like, a commitment.

[00:53:59] [00:54:00] to a set of a set of hypotheses. And I want people who are on the left to be running their place. Um, and they should be different. People should have different hypotheses, and I think that that’s a good thing. And then that’s how we’ll ultimately learn. And, you know, May the best strategy win, like, like that is a good thing in the world.

[00:54:24] So I just, I just really wanted to say that. And then, in terms of more [00:54:30] specifically, DSA and WFP, Um, look, I, I think that it’s true that there are individuals inside of DSA that Offer critiques of WFP. I’m, there’s individual individuals inside of WFP that offer critiques of DSA. Um, I think we need to learn on the left how to approach critiques with generosity.

[00:54:55] I think there’s critiques can be grounded, they could be ungrounded. Um, but it’s [00:55:00] information, right? And I don’t think the presence of critiques. Um, in itself is a problem. I think, you know, that’s how we learn. And I just think we have to kind of build that muscle. Um, there’s disputes inside of WFP. There’s disputes inside of DSA, right?

[00:55:15] And, you know, we wouldn’t be a left if we didn’t have these, um, these disputes or these differences. And, you know, sometimes like intense disputes over, over really minor, minor tactical differences and other things [00:55:30] like we wouldn’t, wouldn’t be left if that wasn’t true. Um, But I do want to, I don’t want to exaggerate the scale of those disputes, uh, I think Um, you know, the D.

[00:55:41] S. A. D. S. A. And W. P. I think have been evidence to, like, be able to, like, to collaborate and really, really deep ways. You know, I’m thinking Tiffany Caban in New York. That was a collaboration where our two organizations threw down very heavily. Janice Lewis George, [00:56:00] uh, in D. C. Um, Elizabeth Epps, the Elizabeth Epps race in Denver.

[00:56:06] Because there’s people like you who are You know, who share sort of dual custody of the organization, right? I have dual citizenship or whatever, whatever, uh, however you want to call it, right? And so, you know, and there’s a lot of examples, actually, of the coming together of the power that the DSA is manifesting on the local [00:56:30] level and what the WP is manifesting.

[00:56:32] You know, another really good example very, very recently, Philadelphia. So Philadelphia, um, the DSA joined a coalition that include included Labor unions included grassroots organizations, included the coalition power of WFP, um, around Kendra Brooks and Nicholas O’Rourke, and they are independent WFP members who are now at at large seats in the City Council.

[00:56:56] For 

[00:56:56] William Lawrence: one, I want to specify for the listeners on a Working Families [00:57:00] Party ballot line and Working Families Party is now the number two most represented party on the Philadelphia City Council, which owes to some Uh, unique laws that guarantee a second party representation. So basically WFP kicked out the republicans from the city council in Philadelphia and now are the minority party on the council, which is pretty cool.

[00:57:23] Um, but you’re saying that D. S. A. Was de facto a member of the working families party electoral [00:57:30] coalition in Philadelphia, 

[00:57:33] Maurice Mitchell: deeply involved in that. And, um, and and we were proud of that partnership and it resulted in this This is historic victory. Like, I mean, anybody who’s serious about building an independent left political party that could actually contend, because the Democrats spent a load of money against us as well, because we, you know, we knocked off the Republicans, but both the Republicans and [00:58:00] Democrats were like not happy about that.

[00:58:02] So who could actually contend against the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in certain instances and win, um, you know, look no further than what we were able to do in Philadelphia. Uh, through the WP and in part with DSA support, right? And so, you know, I’ll also say like, I want to go deeper around this because I do think there’s, there’s differences, right?

[00:58:23] I think there’s like functional differences. There’s a strategic differences. 2018, 2018 is a good [00:58:30] example. It, uh, New York, New York 2018. Um, there, there was a faction. right wing real estate backed Democrats that actually they removed themselves from the Democratic caucus and created a new caucus called the IDC, the Independent Democratic Caucus.

[00:58:49] And because they did that, they deprived the Democrats. of a functioning majority and meant that the Republicans had a majority in the state Senate. Um, and [00:59:00] we recruited and supported challengers to all eight of those folks, and they were progressive challengers. who came from those districts, and we knocked out, we wiped away six of the eight in one swoop, in one election.

[00:59:18] And, um, you know, they, they, those candidates weren’t supported by the DSA, uh, they weren’t DSA members. Um, but we, we believe, and I think it’s materially true [00:59:30] that The work that we did as a coalition in defeating the I. D. C. Created the conditions where it unlocked like a lot of legislative victories, including victories that were top priority for D.

[00:59:43] S. A. Right? So this is an example of W. P. Doing something distinct from the D. S. A. But I think creating the conditions that made more things possible, including for the DSA, right? Um, again, complimentary, right? Different, but [01:00:00] complimentary, right? And a more recent example, we’re going to be on the On the independent side, raising a bunch of money and also on the coordinated side, working very closely directly with the candidate to support congressional champions that came out very early for a ceasefire that are being targeted by APAC, where they’re going to spend like 100 million of far far right money against our people.

[01:00:27] And, you know, in one example, one of the [01:00:30] most recent, you know, upcoming examples, some relief. So some relief for a number of reasons. Um, is no longer associated with the DSA, right? WFP is throwing down with Summerlee, right? And we think that that is a good thing for, for the left, that there are institutions throwing down with Summerlee.

[01:00:51] Um, And pushing back against the far right, even as for for a number of reasons, that strategy or aligning with [01:01:00] summer in that way doesn’t make sense for the DSA. Um, or it doesn’t make sense on either side. Um, we think it’s a good thing that the W. P. Um, is a institutional partner of summer in that fight, the fight against the far right.

[01:01:13] And, um, and they’re very cynical. Cool. strategy of using a pack as a laundering vehicle to be able to advance their agenda like in the Democratic primary. And then, and then, like, I want to talk about this, this question about like [01:01:30] the proximity to the Democratic Party, right? And it comes up a lot in New York because I talked about fusion voting.

[01:01:37] So like infusion voting Um, we, we often are endorsing people who are champions and we’re endorsing DSA members like there’s many, um, legislators that are DSA members and also CWP as a, as a political home. And I would, I would just. say that like some of the sharpest, most strategic [01:02:00] elected officials are DSA members, right?

[01:02:02] Um, but, um, we also endorse people who aren’t, aren’t aligned in a lot of ways, or people might not even like see them as being progressive, right? And You know, like people might say, so why would you award this person with the ballot line then? Like, doesn’t it dilute your brand? Why would you even do that?

[01:02:25] And we think it, for us, it actually matters if a Democrat [01:02:30] or Republican, right, has control of Congress. Like if this speaker. of the house is a Democrat or Republican. We believe that that matters enough for us to endorse somebody who isn’t 100 percent aligned or may not be very much aligned. Because on top of electing people who are WFP champions and come through our pipeline, a strategic imperative is [01:03:00] depriving, uh, Republicans from governing power.

[01:03:02] And so based on our strategy. We’re very open and, and like, and, and, and down with the idea of strategically making endorsement endorsements to prevent Republicans from having, having governing power to create a governing opportunity in this very limited two party space for Democrats so that progressives can govern.

[01:03:24] Right? So these are different strategic imperatives that mean we take up different [01:03:30] space in the ecosystem and play different roles that, that ultimately I think, Okay. Are are in some ways complimentary, right? Um, the one you said something about funding that I want to kind of address directly because I think it’s important.

[01:03:46] Yes. So let’s go back to the summerly thing, right? Um, a pack spent 32 million last cycle against our folks. They announced they’re going to spend a hundred million. We don’t know how much [01:04:00] they’ll actually spend. Organized people and organizing is our superpower and it’s how we beat organized capital again and again and again, and we need some money, right?

[01:04:11] And so the WFP raises money from. individual activists in the thousands, like grassroots activists from, from dues from our institutions like labor unions and people’s organizations. And we also take donations from, from large donors, right? [01:04:30] And we do so. And because we think it’s important that even though we can’t go dollar for dollar, against a pack with summerly.

[01:04:39] We think it’s important that we’re part of the coalition that could actually put together a significant amount of money so that we could be competitive with money when we’re competitive with money against organized capital, then our organizing could seize the day. And, um, so it’s not like a, it’s a feature of our work that we.

[01:04:58] We probably [01:05:00] align our strategies and then we seek out resources in order to make that strategy happen from small donors who give 5 and 10 every month to large donors that could get 5, 000 or 50, 000 or even more. Um, because we need to be in the, in the game as it is, and the game as it is, is one where one entity could announce that they’re going to spend 100 million, 

[01:05:23] William Lawrence: especially at the congressional level.

[01:05:25] And I think that’s what we’ve learned from this experience of the squad. [01:05:30] Okay. I want to take one step further into these intra left. debates here. And this next question, I’m sure it’s one that you might want to put behind you, but it is a bit of a sore spot that I think still fosters mistrust of, of WFP from some corners on the left.

[01:05:44] So I want to give you a chance to address it. Um, in 2020, um, working families for party, uh, famously endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president. Um, while other prominent Left progressive organizations, including the DSA, including [01:06:00] Sunrise Movement, People’s Action, um, the Center for Popular Democracy and, you know, a number of others, um, endorsed Bernie Sanders.

[01:06:08] Now, of course, Warren had other endorsers as well, but many of the organizations you’re proximal to, um, uh, were with Sanders and WFP endorsed Warren. Now, the exact selection process through which Warren was endorsed was, um, Not fully transparent. And I think among some that was sort of weaponized in a bad faith way.

[01:06:28] But [01:06:30] nevertheless, it wasn’t fully transparent and contributed to the perception that WFP was, uh, you know, a bureaucratic sort of operation rather than a democratic mass party. And, um, I think for some people, you know, that was, um, was was a big blow. Uh, and, um, it inhibits some people’s willingness even now to see WFP as a potential political home where they can organize and have their politics reflected because they felt like [01:07:00] it was a big stakes decision.

[01:07:01] The decision in their eyes was wrong. And then the process was also suspect. So I’m curious what you would say about that episode now, both the process and the result and what you’ve learned from it. 

[01:07:16] Maurice Mitchell: Okay, well, let’s so I have no problem going back. I think context matters. So like, yeah, let’s We could, we could, we could go back all day.

[01:07:24] Right. Um, and you know, like when we looked at [01:07:30] the field in 2020, I, you know, I remember that moment we saw Sanders and Warren both as, as real exemplars and, and sort of giants and leaders in, in our movement. And there were leaders that we’ve been supportive of, and we were fans of. Also, both of them had bases of support inside of the WFP.

[01:07:54] And even before Bernie announced his run in 2016, [01:08:00] um, that only came after an effort that we were central to, to draft Warren to run in 2016. And, and A lot of folks were a part of that. And then we went on to be one of the early supporters of Senator Sanders in 2016. And in 2016, when we made that endorsement, you know, the process we used at that time, uh, you know, I think it’s important to note, by the way, was essentially identical to the process we used in 2020 that [01:08:30] resulted in a Warren endorsement.

[01:08:31] Like, essentially, essentially identical. And the aim of the process, um, because it’s important for for folks to understand through our strategy and through long term what we’re building. The aim of the process was to give a voice to all parts of the WFP, which that means the institutional members who are real members.

[01:08:52] And those, those members are, are people’s organizations, labor unions that have their own internal democracy [01:09:00] and grassroots organizations and are activists, individual members. And this is by the way, how many parties, many left parties And the last of the world, you know, function. So you talked about our hybrid character.

[01:09:13] There’s, there’s a number of parties that have a hybrid character that include like labor unions and other folks, and also have card carrying individual members and, um, and so the vote was given an equal share to individual members and to the [01:09:30] national committee. And the national committee, I want to be clear is comprised of.

[01:09:35] of delegates that represent each state chapter. Right? So the National Committee isn’t just these sort of like top down bureaucrats in like these dodgy organizations. They’re actually like representatives from our state chapters and our state chapters include a lot of activists and individuals who struggle together on these things, right?

[01:09:56] And the national member organizations in WFP, like [01:10:00] again, include some of the groups that you talked about. So include Center for Popular Democracy and People’s Action, which is also to say that it was contentious. The process was contentious inside of WFP because there were individuals that were deeply pro Warren.

[01:10:19] There are individuals that were deeply pro Sanders. There were organizations. That were pro Sanders and Warren and there were various state chapters that [01:10:30] were leaning in one direction or another and there were arguments inside of WFP through this process on policy, debating the different policy platforms on strategy, debating the different past of power, like every kind of argument you could imagine.

[01:10:45] Was occurring through this process. And, you know, like I’ll give a, one thing that happened was like, you know, like when Warren was campaigning to, uh, for the support of the working families party, for example, like [01:11:00] when she endorsed Kendra Brooks, I mentioned Kendra Brooks. We ran Kendra and Nick for first time in 2019 when she endorsed Kendra Brooks in 2019.

[01:11:09] She was one of the first endorsers of Kendra Brooks before she had almost any support anywhere. And the WFP members in our Pennsylvania chapter, they noticed that. And, you know, similarly, when she endorsed Jessica Cisneros, right? And when Jessica Cisneros was challenging Henry Cuellar in South Texas, our [01:11:30] Texas chapter noticed that, and they have delegates that go to the national committee, right?

[01:11:36] So, uh, so, there was a lot of debate, a lot of questions, and both candidates had real bases of power. And, um, and there was, like, real struggle. And, you know, I think also I have to say that the rules of the process were quite clear to all of the candidates, right? I just want to say that. And they knew where the votes were.

[01:11:59] They [01:12:00] knew how to organize the party and where the votes were and everything else. And the debates in some chapters were agonizing because people really, truly loved both of these candidates. And in the end, the vote actually was pretty close. And I think the closeness of the vote reflects the fact that there was a lot of struggle and a lot of authentic Respect for both of these candidates in our various chapters in the various national committee members with our [01:12:30] activists.

[01:12:30] So I just say for any of the people who are listening to this, um, who preferred Bernie and wonder if They should join the WFP today. My answer would be absolutely, because at WFP, you will have a voice. You will be in an organization where you can struggle around hard things. And I think the proof is in, not the outcome, because everybody’s not going to agree on the outcome, but the fact that the [01:13:00] coalition held.

[01:13:01] The coalition that is WFP held through that. Through a very contentious and real and live internal debate and internal struggle. So at the end, people who are deep, deep Bernie partisans. stayed with the party. People who are deep, deep Warren partisans who were like elated clearly stayed with the party.

[01:13:21] And to me, that is evidence that we’re building. And I think we continue to build and [01:13:30] continue to deepen a true, authentic space where, where folks who are aligned with the same strategy can struggle together. And the last thing I’ll say on that is, and I think it’s an important point, and it’s a point Um, on how we actually view what we’re doing.

[01:13:46] American politics, I think, very much take, take the, um, the, um, the cast of our very individualized, [01:14:00] neoliberal, sort of, Culture and logic. And so American politics is very entrepreneurial. It’s very much like I woke up one day and I’m like, I think I could do it. And then I make some phone calls and maybe I get some consultants together and I run for something, right?

[01:14:16] That’s why you meet so 

[01:14:16] William Lawrence: many freaking individualists in Congress and state legislatures. That’s the one thing they have all in common. Oh, 

[01:14:23] Maurice Mitchell: it’s it’s so hard. It’s so mind numbingly hard to get anything worth doing through a lot of these [01:14:30] legislatures. Yes. Right. And And we relate like oftentimes we relate to them like individuals.

[01:14:36] I mean, we wonder whether or not we could have a bear with this person or we would like this person or we trust this person. And maybe we, we consider their, um, their policies and how aligned we are with their policies. You know, I said this earlier in the conversation, you will know me. by my strategy.

[01:14:55] Judge me by my strategy. And rarely do we get into strategic [01:15:00] conversations, which is why I’m so passionate about party building, right? Because parties hold strategy. And I believe that it’s strategy as like the overarching container. Underneath that is party, and then through that you advance your politics and you make endorsements for various candidates.

[01:15:23] And we endorse close to a thousand candidates every cycle, right? Not, not everyone is as contentious and as like [01:15:30] Like as controversial as like the Warren Burney endorsement for sure. But every cycle we’re endorsing hundreds of candidates. And so, um, we’re building the muscle for people to make hard decisions and stay part of a political vehicle, right?

[01:15:48] And stay focused on a political strategy. Um, and you know, I try to use the analogy of like a car in motion, right? A political vehicle in motion. You know, if you’re in a car, [01:16:00] if you’re in a car in motion, let’s just say if you commandeer the radio and you turn it over to a station that you like, right, you made a decision, you’ve turned it over and Now you’re playing a song that you like and let’s say there’s people who don’t like that song.

[01:16:14] It would be, um, it would be maybe not grounded if that person jumped out the window of the moving car because they didn’t like the song, right? Um, we want to develop that level of North [01:16:30] Star alignment as it relates to our, our decisions when it comes to an endorsement, right? Uh, when it comes to supporting a candidate, candidate A, candidate B.

[01:16:41] Ultimately, everything is serving the strategy and you will have an opportunity to move the needle after that song is over, you will have an opportunity in that vehicle to make choices. But if you leave the political vehicle, then you won’t have an opportunity to make those choices. And I think we need to Struggle [01:17:00] in our political vehicles.

[01:17:01] If you believe in the strategy, even if you might disagree with a tactic, because we could move on a tactic, we could evaluate, maybe we were right. Maybe we’re wrong. We’ll learn. And then next time we’ll have another tactic and electoral. Engagement is a tactic that should serve a larger strategy. Thanks 

[01:17:19] William Lawrence: for that.

[01:17:20] Okay, Marie. So we’ve we’re running out of time here. So I want to ask you one more question, which is just to close. Give us an optimistic view, but a grounded [01:17:30] view of W. F. P. S. Development over the rest of the decade. Give us a glimpse of the Working Families Party of 2030. Okay, 

[01:17:40] Maurice Mitchell: so, um, we had our first ever in history National Convention in Philadelphia.

[01:17:45] Yeah. And at that national convention, we attempted to answer the question, right? It was 25 years. We looked, we looked back 25 years and we looked forward and our focus like a laser is on governing [01:18:00] what governing means is that your ideas are their common sense, your ideas. are the agenda and then others got to do what they got to do around it.

[01:18:11] Our job is to put our movement in a governing position. And we think that in a matter of years, maybe five years, maybe 10 years, certainly 20, absolutely 25 years, we will be in a position where our people, our agenda. [01:18:30] people on the left, progressives, other folks can actually govern. Um, and so we’re building carefully, step by step, seriously, rigorously, the institutional power, uh, the, the candidate pipelines, the movement power, the activist power, the, the coalitions in order to do that.

[01:18:50] And, um, when that happens, we believe it’s going to unlock. A lot of possibility and that pit in your stomach that you feel that [01:19:00] frustration every presidential election because we don’t have the infrastructure. We don’t have the candidates. We don’t have the power and we have to make very, very uncomfortable decisions.

[01:19:12] We believe that the remedy to that is not something that could happen proximately, but it can happen in a matter of years if we focus on governing. 

[01:19:20] William Lawrence: All right, I want to see it. This election year is definitely Yeah. Pure agony. And we all wish we had a lot more [01:19:30] choices. Well, maybe one more choice that we actually believed in.

[01:19:33] So, um, here’s to a party that can deliver that in the future. Maurice, thank you so much. Um, really a pleasure talking to you and reconnecting. Um, thanks for being here. 

[01:19:44] Maurice Mitchell: Thank you. 

[01:19:47] William Lawrence: This podcast is written and hosted by me, William Lawrence. Our producer is Josh Elstro, and it is published by Convergence, a magazine for radical insights.

[01:19:57] You can help support this show and others like it by becoming a [01:20:00] Patreon subscriber of Convergence for as low as 2 per month at patreon. com slash convergence mag. You can find a direct link in the show notes. This has been the Hegemonicon. Let’s talk again soon.