Last week we documented Obama’s 1996 endorsement by the New Party: which begs the question: what is the New Party? It’s easy to allege that this group is closely tied to former communists, but digging in to the New Party and Obama’s involvement, a very dirty picture presents itself. In fact, it is abundantly apparent that Barack Obama not only knew what the New Party was when he sought its endorsement, but through his ties with ACORN, the radical left activist organization, Obama used his radical left connections to get elected to the Illinois State Senate.
Most of the New Party’s history has been lost in the digital age. It was established in 1992 and started to die out in 1998, well before Google and the modern web were established. But through lengthy searches of the Nexis archive and microfilm at the local university library, I’ve been able to piece this together.
The New Party was established in 1992 “by union activist Sandy Pope and University of Wisconsin professor Joel Rogers,” USA Today reported on November 16, 1992. The paper wrote that the new party was “self-described [as] ‘socialist democratic.’”
Throughout its creation and rise, the New Party sought to unite alienated leftists who had grown disgusted by Bill Clinton’s embrace of the center-left Democratic Leadership Council. The Wisconsin State Journal summed up where the Left was in February of 1992. “Angry Americans,” Jesse Waldman wrote, “particularly left-wing Democrats, are tired of choosing between the lesser of two evils when they go to the ballot now.” A July 4, 1996, column in the Los Angeles Times by Todd Gitlin, which championed the New Party as “both old-fashioned and elegant” proclaimed the New Party as a path to victory for leftists alienated by the Democrats and Republicans. Capturing the mood of the left in a May 31, 1998 article for the leftist magazine In These Times, Doug Ireland wrote, “As Bob Master of the Communication Workers of America — the point-man for the new labor ballot line — puts it: ‘The political perspective of labor and working people has no voice in state politics, especially since the Democratic Party has moved to the right.”
The seeds, however, had been sown all the way back in 1988. Quoting John Nichols in the March 22, 1998 issue of In These Times, “The roots of the New Party go back to the aftermath of Jesse Jackson’s run for president in 1988. At that time, Dan Cantor, who had served as labor coordinator for the Jackson campaign, and University of Wisconsin sociology professor Joel Rogers began talking about how to formulate an alternative between the increasingly indistinguishable Democratic-Republican monolith.”
It is no great leap to say, as a result, that Barack Obama’s rise to the Democratic nomination is the child of Jesse Jackson’s defeat.
In light of dissatisfaction with the Democrats’ rightward drift, the New Party set about establishing itself as a third-party third-way for ballot access. “Fusion,” was the idea. Continuing with Jesse Waldman from the Wisconsin State Journal, “[Fusion] would allow a left-wing candidate … to run as both a Democrat and [a third party] candidate. Proponents of this ‘fusion’ strategy include Mary K. Baum, co-chair of Wisconsin Labor-Farm, and Joel Rogers, a UW-Madison law and sociology professor who has helped organize The New Party.”
Fusion is a pretty simple concept. A candidate could run as both a Democrat and a New Party member to signal the candidate was, in fact, a left-leaning candidate, or at least not a center-left DLC type candidate. If the candidate, let’s call him Barack Obama, received only 500 votes in the Democratic Party against another candidate who received 1000 votes, Obama would clearly not be the nominee. But, if Obama also received 600 votes from the New Party, Obama’s New Party votes and Democratic votes would be fused. He would be the Democratic nominee with 1100 votes.
The fusion idea set off a number of third parties, but the New Party was probably the most successful. A March 22, 1998 In These Times article by John Nichols showed just how successful. “[The Wall Street] Journal’s editorialists fretted last fall about how the New Party was responsible for a labor movement that was drifting leftward …. As [openly declared socialist] Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) puts it, ‘If the Wall Street Journal editorial page goes after you, you can pretty well bet you’re doing the right thing.’”
Nichols’s article goes into detail about the New Party’s scope. “After six years, the party has built what is arguably the most sophisticated left-leaning political operation the country has seen since the decline of the Farmer-Labor, Progressive and Non-Partisan League groupings of the early part of the century …. In 1996, it helped Chicago’s Danny Davis, a New Party member, win a Democratic congressional primary, thereby assuring his election in the majority-black district …. The threat of losing New Party support, or of the New Party running its own candidates against conservative Democrats, would begin a process of forcing the political process to the left, [Joel] Rogers argued.”
Fusion, fortunately for the country, died in
1998 1997. William Rehnquist, writing for a 6-3 Supreme Court, found the concept unconstitutional was not a protected constitutional right. It was two years too late to stop Obama.1
Onward to the Socialist Utopia
The New Party was designed as a loose confederation of unions, socialists, communists, and black activists who shared common values, but often had different goals. According to John Nichols, its party platform included:
- full employment
- a shorter work week
- a guaranteed minimum income for all adults and a universal “social wage”
- full public financing of elections with universal voter registration
- “the democratization of banking and financial systems”, which included public control and regulation of banking
- a more progressive tax system
- reductions in military spending and an end to unilateral military interventions.
In Arkansas, Minnesota, Oregon, and other places the New Party has worked hand in hand with ACORN and local unions to block public policy changes that have included prison expansion, government subsidized stadiums, and zoning changes to bring in “big box” stores. In 2000, Missoula County, Montana Commissioner Barbara Evans, after fighting the New Party over buidling a home-improvement store, told the Oregonian, “They’re bad news. I consider them socialist-communist in their beliefs.”
On December 1, 1994, after the Gingrich revolution swept the Democrats from congress and forced Bill Clinton to triangulate, the Chicago Tribune ran an article by Steve Mills entitled “Looking for the Left: The Old Progressives and Marxists Still Breathe Idealist Fire, but They’re Too Spintered to Generate Any Heat.”
“‘The Left is in crisis, and it has been for some time,’ said Carl Davidson, the former national secretary for the radical Students for a Democratic Society. ‘I don’t know if it’s even bottomed out yet,’” he reported to Mr. Mills. Mills continued, “The Socialist Workers Party is in this corner; the International Socialist Organization is in this one. The [communist group Committee of Correspondence] is in another. The radicals, or even the liberals with some radical leanings — so-called ‘soft radicals’ — seem to find it hard to abandon individual issues for a broader movement.”
But, Mills reported, “It is amid this political confusion that The New Party would like to step in. ‘If there’s anything that defines the American Left, it’s fragmentation,’ said Dan Cantor, the party’s national organizer.… The New Party aims to change that. By uniting the progressives behind a cohesive ideology, one that, in theory at least, will have room for all the factions that now litter the landscape of the Left, The New Party is confident progressives can again be strong.”
The New Party, ACORN, and Growth
Steve Mills, writing for the Chicago Tribune, spent some time surveying where the New Party stood in 1994 Chicago, two years before Obama sought and received its endorsement. “Although its Chicago organization is not yet fully formed, in other parts of the country it has run candidates in local races.” The races had, at that time, all been fairly small. However, they had not yet fully connected with Barack Obama. Dan Cantor, ironic given Obama’s preacher problems of late, summed up his vision for the New Party as it headed into Chicago, telling Steve Mills, “We’re of that Left tradition that thinks we could have a majority out there someday.… We want to build a church, not a sect. Because if the Left is going to amount to anything, it’s going to be made up of groups have have reached their limit on one issue.”
In 1993, the New Party had moved into New York to be a major player. Newsday’s Bob Liff interviewed Jan Pierce, the local organizer for the New Party. Pierce told Liff that David Dinkins was the type of progressive candidate New Party members liked. As the party tried to take off in New York, it was not only trying to get access to the ballot, “but to have some ideological purity.” In fact, the New Party had made such a name for itself that Al Sharpton had considered an attempt at the New Party’s endorsement for the United States Senate.
In 1995, Newsday reported “New Party-endorsed candidates have run in 120 elections for school board and zoning board and city councils, winning 77 races, including a Chicago alderman’s slot.”
By 1996, the New Party had solidified its ties with ACORN, unions, and the left so much so that even the New York Times referred to it as “leftist.” Manning Marable, writing in the left-wing New York Beacon, on October 23, 1996, wrote that “there are four key components in this strategy for progressive political change.” Among those components were civil disobedience and “support for independent movements like the New Party which are running candidates in local races. More importantly an innovative approach to electoralism is represented by ACORN’s ‘living wage’ referenda campaigns.”
The Chicago Democratic Socialists of America were quite pleased in 1996 with the New Party’s success including the election of “Barack Obama, victor in the 13th State Senate District, [who] encouraged [New Party members] to join in his task forces on Voter Education and Voter Registration”. (h/t to Rick Moran)
In These Times reported on February 17, 1997, that “the [New] [P]arty, with 80 members in the [17th] ward, many of whom are also active in the Service Employees International Union and the advocacy group ACORN, has begun to build a parallel precinct organization.”
With the New Party’s rise and its entanglements with ACORN came the rise of Barack Obama. According to Stanley Kurtz, “Acorn is the key modern successor of the radical 1960’s ‘New Left,’ with a ‘1960’s-bred agenda of anti-capitalism’ to match.” And Barack Obama was ACORN’s lawyer.
Using his position at ACORN in 1995, Obama set up the playing field for his election the following year. The Boston Globe reports, “Obama was part of a team of attorneys who represented the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in a lawsuit against the state of Illinois in 1995 for failing to implement a federal law designed to make it easier for the poor and others to register as voters. A federal court ordered the state to implement the law.” The Globe also notes, “Obama was part of a team of lawyers representing black voters and aldermen that forced Chicago to redraw ward boundaries that the City Council drew up after the 1990 census. They said the boundaries were discriminatory. After an appeals court ruled the map violated the federal Voting Rights Act, attorneys for both sides drew up a new set of ward boundaries.”
With districts redrawn, ingratiating himself to black politicians on his side of the city, and rules loosened on voter registration, Obama could set out to run. And he did. Obama sought the New Party endorsement, which required him to sign a contract that he would keep up his relationship with the New Party.
The end of the story is simple. Obama won the New Party’s nomination and, through fusion with his Democratic votes, he became the Democratic nominee. Using ACORN’s get out the vote efforts and relying on his gerrymandered Democrat district, Obama moved on to the State Senate. While there, he paid back the New Party and the far left. He opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, he opposed legislation that would have prohibited the sale of pornography across the street from elementary schools and churches, and he supported allowing criminals to sue their victims if their victims injured the criminals in self-defense.
Fast forward twelve years and Obama is running as fast as he can away from the New Party brand. But beyond a shadow of a doubt, Barack Obama knew what he was getting into and remains an ideal New Party candidate. The New Party was, and as it still exists is, an amalgamation of the left and far left designed to attract far left candidates and move the Democratic Party back to the left. Barack Obama is an example of the New Party’s success.
Thank God William Rehnquist ruled fusionism unconstitutional when he did, or there’d be more of these latent communists on the march upward into the political establishment.
Fusion is generally prohibited by law in the majority of states, but it survives in a few states in various forms. Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont have some form of fusion. New Hampshire has fusion elections if write-in candidates win primary nominations. ↩