Making Your Vote Count More

In June, after Senator Obama disappointed me with his FISA vote, I told someone who had come to Drinking Liberally to promote a fundraiser that I was going to withhold my donation. It was my own way to signal that I disagreed with the candidate I would ultimately vote for anyway.

Hearing the Obama campaign raised $150 million last month may make me wonder whether my deferred $25 made a difference. But we do have to find ways to pressure Obama, his advisors (and, hopefully, his administration) if we want to push a progressive agenda. As David Sirota asked earlier today, "If not now, when?" -- when can we challenge Obama, who we support for President, to live up to our standards?

In New York State, there's one good answer: you can send that message by voting for Obama on the Working Families Party Line.

Their "Vote Change Like You Mean It" campaign allows you to add your vote to the Obama total, but also send a message that you believe in higher wages, expanded healthcare and progressive tax structure (and right now they are the leading voice against Bloomberg's power grab)...and at the same time you can increase the power base of a group that will scare safe, cautious Dems on the state level.

The WFP is a progressive third party in a state that allows fusion voting -- i.e., a candidate endorsed on more than one line receives the sum of each in his or her vote total. They can set higher standards for candidates to sign on to, and they can apply different pressure on people in office.

Largely, they cross-endorse Dems (although a WFP candidate did win a Council race over a Democrat a couple years ago)...but how they decide who gets the benefit of their tremendous field operation is one of their leverage points. You have to earn their canvass support, which has helped win Congressional and State Senate races as well.

This year, New York will see huge turnout. If people vote on the WFP line, it tells Obama something about your values. It also helps the WFP increase its influence in subsequent elections where, on downticket races, they can have even more impact.

They are not a perfect organization (many of us disagreed with their strategy to support incumbent Sheldon Silver over Paul Newell -- but we'll give them a year to prove that strategy was wise), but they are making a real run at shaking up Democratic politics.

And in a year when my $25 protest against FISA may not be heard so loudly, at least there's a way to continue my challenge at the ballot box.