Some Thoughts After the Election
by Andy Parsons
The small vote for Nader simply shows that a mass alternative party can’t be formed on a national level by a small number of people getting together and running a candidate, even a well-known celebrity candidate. You need resources and foot soldiers and strong backing from already established mass organizations to have enough support to force the media to pay attention, force your inclusion in the debates, make people believe you have a chance to win and thereby avoid the whole spoiler issue, and finally turn out your vote on election day.
Having a big rally with a lot of college students only gets you so far.
In some ways this election is a setback for the labor party movement and in other ways it is an advance.
On the positive side, it has exposed the bankruptcy of the strategy of the Democratic Leadership Council and other forces which have moved the Democrats to the right, and the bankruptcy of the AFL-CIO’s coddling of those forces. The election outcome has also put the issues of campaign reform, electoral reform, and constitutional reform right up front. Hopefully something positive will come out of the discussion on those issues.
On the negative side, the bitter split between labor activists and progressives who supported Gore and those who supported Nader may have poisoned any discussion in the unions about moving toward a labor party for at least the next several months. Some Gore supporters — even ones who recognize the desirability of creating a labor party sometime in the future — have expressed a lot of anger and a desire to take that anger out on the Nader supporters, and probably Labor Party supporters as well, even though the LP did not endorse any candidates.
Now you might say “to hell with the labor supporters of Gore.” However, if the Labor Party is ever to become a real mass party, we have to have a rational dialogue with them —- no matter how nasty they might get. We cannot simply return the insults, but instead, we need to raise the real issues about how we can go forward from this mess. Because there will be no mass labor party unless the grassroots labor activists get behind it. And 90 percent of the labor people who are active on a local level in politics are active Democrats. That’s the reality.
I don’t think we in the Labor Party are going to get very far if it looks like we are going to imitate the Green Party and run candidates who get 3 percent of the vote.
In this situation, the question of running Labor Party candidates is not very promising. I think that for now we should encourage a discussion along the lines of why Gore’s campaign was so weak (putting the focus back on Gore and away from Nader), and on the need for reform of our archaic electoral system.