Proposal for a Living Wage Party
I believe we need to start a new third party in Oregon to:
1. Provide a ballot line for Nader in 2008.
2. Pressure Democrats to move left by running against them in close elections.
Unfortunately the Greens are not willing to do either of these things. They are also too unfocused for the job.
Before we launch another party, we need to think about strategy.
A political party needs a solid constituency based on self-interest. The logical, and only, base for a leftist third party is the third of American workers who are, according to Nader, poor - they make less than a "living wage" of $10 per hour.
A political party needs a sharp focus and a clear identity. You can't just throw all the "progressive" issues into a bag and call it a party. People won't get it. If our target membership is the third of America that is poor, than our party should focus on economics. The name of the party needs to instantly convey this, which is why I'm proposing to call it the Living Wage Party. Our platform and literature also need to emphasize economic issues.
3. Be brief, concrete, avoid jargon.
We need to understand that our target membership, the poor, are not like us. (Although I am one of them.) They do not eat, sleep and breath politics. They are not familiar with the language we use. Words like "single-payer," "progressive," and "populist" do not communicate. Neither do long multi-syllable words. They are not willing to read long detailed platforms. (Is anyone?)
If we want to communicate with them we need to be very brief. Brevity also helps readers to remember the main points, since they're not obscured by a lot of other words. Our basic platform should fit on a half-sheet, and be written in ordinary language, the kind most people use when they talk. It needs to be concrete, to quickly tell people what our platform would do for them, to make their lives better. Forget the idealistic rhetoric, what's in it for us? If I register and vote for this party, what kind of message am I sending?
Below is a suggested platform that would fit on a half-sheet. This is also a good size to carry around town in a fanny pack and tack up on poles, etc.
It would be important to set this up so it could not easily be taken over by people who don't like confrontation, as the Greens apparently were. Three ways to do that might be to: (1) agree at the start on a name and minimum half-sheet platform which clearly define the party and its purpose; (2) recruit members from poor neighborhoods; and (3) elect officers at the start for long terms.
Legal structure I will leave to the lawyers.
We should keep structure and process to a minimum. We don't need a lot of meetings to go to, and those of us who don't live in Portland do not want to go there very often for statewide meetings. Use local chapters as much as possible. Use an email list for communications when possible. I believe that even a lot of poor people now have Internet access, although I might be wrong.
Do not use statewide conventions, like the Greens, to choose candidates, because it's undemocratic and will just cause trouble, as it has for the Greens. Candidates for president and statewide offices should be chosen by mail ballot. Since the state won't do that for us, we would somehow have to raise the money to do it ourselves. Which means that fundraising has to be a prime focus. There are ways to do that as a bootstrap operation, so you can start with little money.
For other offices, such as state senator or representative, just let people nominate themselves. If we have succeeded in defining our party in the public mind, I think that will work out.
If there is a solid group of interested people, I could set up an email list to start discussing it.
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Proposed basic half-sheet platform:
A third of working Americans make less than a living wage of $10 per hour. The Living Wage Party supports your right to make a decent living. Democrats and Republicans do not. Make them respond to your needs by registering and voting with us!
* Raise the minimum wage to $8 an hour now, $10 in two years.
* Use government programs to create enough jobs for everyone who doesn't have one.
* Repeal federal laws that make it impossible for people to organize unions.
* Extend unemployment insurance to all. Make it last until you get another job.
* Government-paid medical insurance for everyone.
* Full funding for all safety net programs - Medicare, Oregon Health Plan, subsidized housing for the poor, food stamps, welfare, etc. We need the net!
* Stop sending American jobs to other countries. Fair trade, not free trade.
* Free job training.
* Lower taxes for poor people and raise them for the rich. Make business pay its fair share.
* Reduce the full benefits Social Security retirement age back to 65.
We also support: get out of Iraq, no more aggressive wars; environmental protection; civil rights for all minorities; legal abortion; repeal the Patriot Act and protect civil liberties; gay marriage.
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