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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.

1. Self-interest
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.

2. Focus
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.

4. Organization
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.

* * *

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.
Start a party for Nader in '08? 11.May.2005 07:58


Good luck. Don't you think there are others who might be better? How many times does he have to be thoroughly rejected till you choose another strategy?

a better party? 11.May.2005 10:29

I haven't seen it

"Don't you think there are others who might be better?"

I don't. You mean the greens? Given their pathetic pathetic showing in 04 I wouldn't support them in a run for local dog catcher. Talk about rejection, despite having to fight both the democrats and republicans Nader still got 4 times as many votes as Cobb and Cobb even lost to Peroutka. But I suppose the greens will just have to be thoroughly rejected a few more times before their members choose another strategy. Ironic isn't it?

Nader 11.May.2005 16:00

George Bender

Minorities always lose in electoral politics. That's part of being a minority. But every time Nader runs his ideas get imprinted on more people. When he spoke in Eugene during the election campaign the theater was packed. How else do you distribute leftist ideas?

Also, he beat Cobb and all the other minorities. Who do we have that could do as well as Nader did? No one. Certainly not the kind of invisible man the Greens insist on running. Because, you see, he's one of them. Invisible. That's what they're comfortable with, being invisible. No nasty backlash from their friends, the Democrats.

It is possible for a minority presidential candidate to greatly influence American politics, if s/he gets enough votes. Ross Perot in 1992 got, as I recall, 19 percent of the vote, and forced the major parties to take the national deficit and debt seriously. Nader could do the same if most of the progressives, afraid of Republicans, didn't vote Democrat. Perhaps some day they'll understand why that is a losing strategy.

Forget it 11.May.2005 22:39

Lynn Porter

Obviously this is a nonstarter. The only response I've had was from Derek Maddox of Omaha, Nebraska. After disagreeing with everything I said Derek concluded with, "If you can convince me that you have a sound economic policy here, with substantive arguments for how this economy can be sustained, I might just throw in with you." Yeah, right. Not worth the trouble, Derek. If you don't know by now.

I'm ready to give up entirely on political parties. Maybe this is just an obsolete concept. The Greens haven't been able to make it work, being, as is typical of the American left, too eccentric. The Nader campaign has shown no interest at all in starting a party. So I think I'll just stick with single-issue groups. The hell with trying to organize the left. They are impossible to organize. I'm not going to pour my time and energy down a rathole.

Whoa. 12.May.2005 10:22

alsis38 alsis35@yahoo.com

Sorry, Lynn. I didn't have time to comment on this yesterday. I ran your idea by an ex-Green months ago, who also had a dozen reasons why it could never work. Some of his points were well-taken, but why let that stop you ?

I don't know that political parties are obsolete. I do think that the current approach --ie calling for conventions to nominate candidates-- will automatically disenfranchise an awful lot of people that a Green-type platform is supposedly there to help. Anyway, if you want to talk more, you have my email.