Obama and the New Party
Two weeks ago at RedState, we documented Obama’s 1996 endorsement by the New Party. A review of the New Party establishes that not only was the party an amalgamation of far left groups, but Barack Obama knew that when he sought the party’s endorsement.
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.’”
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.”
Joel Rogers sought to use the idea of “fusion” as a way to get the New Party into power.
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. “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 1997. William Rehnquist, writing for a 6-3 Supreme Court, found the concept was not a protected constitutional right. It was two years too late to stop Obama.
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 Splintered 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.”
In 1995, the New Ground, the newsletter of the Chicago Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, noted, “In Chicago, the New Party’s biggest asset and biggest liability is ACORN.
“Like most organizations, ACORN is a mixed bag. On one hand, in Chicago, ACORN is a group that attempts to organize some of the most depressed communities in the city. Chicago organizers for ACORN and organizers for SEIU Local 880 have been given modest monthly recruitment quotas for new New Party members. On the other hand, like most groups that depend on canvassing for fundraising, it’s easy enough to find burned out and disgruntled former employees. And ACORN has not had the reputation for being interested in coalition politics – until recently and, happily, not just within the New Party.”
Naturally, Barack Obama was an active part of ACORN at the time, helping it legally in court and helping it organize voters. By 1996, ACORN and the New Party were essentially the same body. Along with the Democratic Socialists of America, the New Party endorsed Barack Obama in his State Senate bid.
Obama began seeking the New Party endorsement in 1995. He had been running in a four way primary against his former boss, Senator Alice Palmer, herself a far left radical, and two other individuals. But an election law quirk gave Obama the upper hand. In order to get on the ballot, candidates had to collect signatures of voters. Printed names were not allowed. Obama challenged the petitions of his rivals and was able to get every one of them thrown off the ballot. By the time the ballot was drawn up for the 1996 election, Obama’s was the only name in the race.
Nonetheless, Obama still coveted the New Party endorsement. The New Party required candidates who received the endorsement sign a pledge of support for the party. Obama did not need to support a party that was, in effect, a front group for communists; yet he still chose to. The July issue of the New Ground noted that 15% of the New Party consisted of Democratic Socialists of America members and a good number of Committee of Correspondence members.
Barack Obama, not needing to, chose to affiliate himself with this band of quasi-communists. As the nation moves closer to the election, it is clear that Obama chose to affiliate with assorted anti-American radicals. Machiavelli once noted that we can know a leader by the people he surrounds himself with. What does that say about Barack Obama, who chose to surround himself with people committed to overthrowing the United States and capitalism?