Working families need a stronger voice at the table. In campaigns, this often-repeated idea sometimes just sounds like a talking point and nothing more, but it’s entirely true. Our political system can struggle to effectively respond to many of the daily problems that regular folks care about. Congress rarely spends much time talking about wages, labor rights, or housing costs. The increasingly urgent climate crisis has been relegated to the background; taxing the wealthy is pretty much off the table.
Voters, unsurprisingly, have responded with an increasingly dismal view of our current political landscape. A recent survey from Pew found that nearly three-in-ten Americans (28%) dislike both mainstream political parties, the highest share in three decades. It is not all surprising that two-thirds of voters said they felt “exhausted” when thinking about politics at all.
Frankly, we can get tired too. But we also know there is a better way.
This past week, the Working Families Party (WFP) had our first-ever national convention in Philadelphia. It was an incredible event, with hundreds of activists, advocates, and progressive champions from across the country. We heard from WFP-endorsed elected officials like Brandon Johnson, the new Mayor of Chicago, Representative Greg Casar from Texas or Summer Lee from Pennsylvania, or some inspiring local WFP leaders like our very own Josh Michtom, City Council Member in Hartford. We had many great conversations about politics and policy, about how to create opportunity and prosperity for everyone in this nation.
Our goal is to be the political party that brings the voice of American working families to the table and with them, real, positive change to our political system. What I found truly inspiring in our national convention, however, were not the empowering speeches, but something much simpler, and much more important: a strategy to make it happen. A realistic strategy rooted both in the community and a real understanding of how politics work in our country. The WFP has little interest in meaningless protest votes and glorious defeats. We want to change things for the better, and we want to do so by building a national party for the multi-racial working class.
Accomplishing this is not going to be easy, but at the convention we laid the groundwork. At the core, WFP works by electing progressives, either running our own candidates (like we do in Hartford) or endorsing and campaigning to support progressive candidates in (mostly) Democratic primaries. We pay attention both to state and local elections, because we know that many of the most impactful decisions affecting working families happen far from Washington, but at the state capitol and city hall. We actively work to recruit candidates that reflect and understand their communities, looking beyond the usual old boys club. More importantly, we build the kind of grassroots, multiracial organizations that we need to win and give working families across the country a voice to speak to power.
The most interesting part of this realistic, non-delusional approach to politics is that we know it works, because this is what we have been doing in Connecticut for years. If you have ever wondered why Connecticut was the very first state in the nation to pass paid sick days legislation, that is the result of our efforts (in coalition with many other partners!). We worked tirelessly to raise the minimum wage and to elect legislators that would not just support but lead the effort to pass our paid family and medical leave program.
This weekend, I left Philadelphia in great spirits. The challenges we face here in Connecticut and in our country are staggering. The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. There is, however, a way to make things better, and we have the tools and the will to do it. It won’t be easy, but the energy is there. Let’s build a better world.
Ganong is State Director of the Working Families Party
Editor’s note: an earlier version mistakenly attributed this piece to columnist Roger Senserrich, Communications Director at the CT Working Families Party.