Co-founded in 1992 by Daniel
Cantor (a former staffer for Jesse
1988 presidential campaign) and Joel
the New Party (NP) was a socialist political coalition whose objective
was to endorse and elect leftist public officials -- most often
Democrats. Cantor and Rogers wanted NP to be “an
explicitly social democratic organization, with an ideology roughly
like that of Northern European (e.g., Swedish) labor movements.” NP's short-term goal was to move the
leftward, thereby setting the stage for the eventual rise of a new
socialist third party. According to author Stanley Kurtz, NP "is best understood as an attempt to build a mass-based
political front for a largely socialist party leadership."Around the time of NP's founding, Joel Rogers himself penned a piece in the Marxist journal New
Left Review, wherein he made it clear that the organization was a socialist enterprise at its core.
The initial strategic meetings
to plan the New Party were held in Joel Rogers' Madison,
Wisconsin home in the very early 1990s. Present at these gatherings were Rogers and his wife Sarah
Siskind; Dan Cantor; Steve Cobble (affiliated with the Institute for Policy
Studies, or IPS); Harriet Barlow (who would later become an IPS board member); Sandy Morales Pope (of the Teamsters union); Barbara Dudley (then-executive director of Greenpeace); and ACORN leaders Wade Rathke, Zach Polett, Steven
Kest, and Jon Kest.
The New Party's influential
Chicago chapter began to coalesce in January 1995. Its members consisted mainly of individuals associated with
ACORN, DSA, the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU), and the Committees of Correspondence.
NP also had a front group called Progressive Chicago, whose purpose was to identify candidates whose agendas the New Party and its sympathizers might support.
NP's modus operandi featured the political strategy of
“electoral fusion,” where it would nominate, for various
political offices, candidates from other parties (usually Democrats),
enabling each of those candidates to occupy more than
one ballot line in the voting booth. By so doing, NP often was able to
influence candidates' political platforms.
(Fusion of this type is today permitted in eight states -- Connecticut,
Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, and
-- but is common only in New York.) NP's overriding goal was to elect
leftist Democrats rather than third-party candidates, as evidenced by a
New Party Executive Committee announcement
that said: "Joining the New Party doesn't end
your relationship with the Democrats, it changes it."
Though Illinois was
not one of the states that permitted electoral fusion, in 1995 the political neophyte Barack
nonetheless sought NP's endorsement
for his 1996 state senate run. He was successful in obtaining that
endorsement, and he used a number of NP volunteers as campaign
1996, Obama himself had
the New Party. (Obama also had been a prominent member of the aforementioned NP front group, Progressive Chicago.) A key figure in NP's Chicago chapter was Carl
a Marxist who became one of Obama's earliest political supporters.
In 1996, three of the four NP-endorsed candidates in Illinois won
primaries -- Obama in the 13th State
Senate District, Danny Davis in the 7th Congressional District,
and Patricia Martin (a judge) in the 7th Subcircuit
four candidates attended
an April 11, 1996 New Party membership meeting to express their
gratitude for the party’s support. NP chapters elsewhere in the U.S. similarly helped to elect dozens of additional political
To a large extent, NP functioned as an electoral front for ACORN—particularly in Chicago. Indeed, the DSA's national newsletter characterized NP as essentially the “electoral arm” of ACORN
and its allied SEIU locals.
NP's hostility to capitalism was made plain in the party's assertion
that “our major economic problem is not the government, as
conservatives claim, but American enterprise itself.” internal
ACORN/New Party documents give evidence that NP sought to employ a “pragmatic” leftism that rejected
ideological purity and instead sought to “organiz[e] the private
economy to serve public ends”; i.e., rather than nationalizing the entire economy, the aim was to fight for government regulations that would empower community groups like ACORN to create “popular and democratic
control over the economy.”
Among NP's specific objectives were “full employment, a
shorter work week and a guaranteed minimum income for all adults; a
universal ‘social wage’ to include such basic benefits as health care,
child care, vacation time and lifelong access to education and training;
a systematic phase-in of comparable worth; and like programs to ensure
gender equity.” NP also advocated “the democratization of our
banking and financial system – including popular election of those
charged with public stewardship of our banking system, worker-owner
control over their pension assets [and] community-controlled alternative
NP described itself as a party that was "run by dues-paying members, who are organized into
chapters." In 1999,
the "Join the New Party" section of NP's website made it clear that NP
was a membership-based organization (wherein a "basic membership" cost $36). To view pertinent quotes demonstrating that this was the party's structure, click here.
By early 1997, NP's membership rolls had grown to approximately 10,000. But later that same year, the party's influence
declined precipitously after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
that electoral fusion was not protected by the First Amendment's
freedom of association clause. By 1999 NP was essentially
defunct. Daniel Cantor and other key party members went on to
establish a new organization with similar ideals, the Working
of New York.
For additional information on the New Party, click here.
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