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WFP’s Nod to Warren Reminds Progressives of the Inevitable Need to Choose

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Even before the Working Families Party endorsed Elizabeth Warren, the labor-left organization that advocates for a more progressive Democratic politics had endorsed Elizabeth Warren. While the WFP’s decision to back the senator from Massachusetts for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination drew lots of attention Monday, the group first endorsed Warren in February 2015, when it called on the senator—as “the nation’s most powerful voice for working families”—to challenge front-runner Hillary Clinton for the party’s 2016 nomination. Warren chose not run, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders stepped up. The WFP eventually backed his bid, with a December 2015 announcement from party leadership that “we’re standing with Bernie Sanders to build the political revolution and make our nation into one where every family can thrive.”

Now the WFP is again with Warren. That’s significant, as is the fact that it isn’t with Sanders. Significant is not necessarily the same as definitional, however. Many friends and allies of the WFP were still speaking up for the senator from Vermont after the announcement Monday that the senator from Massachusetts had prevailed in endorsement balloting in which 50 percent of the vote was cast by WFP members and grassroots supporters and 50 percent by the WFP national committee.

The WFP’s decision to endorse distinguished it from the majority of progressive groups and unions, which are waiting to make choices between Warren and Sanders, and the several other contenders who lay claim to the progressive mantle in 2020. (New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, former secretary of housing and urban development Julian Castro, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio were also in the running for the WFP nod.) There have been few major endorsements so far even from the left-leaning labor, environmental, and activist groups that in 2015 first cheered on a “Draft Warren” movement and then backed Sanders—although the Vermonter has gained endorsements from Democrat Socialists of America and, more recently, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union.

On Monday, Warren campaign aides expressed hope that the WFP move might break loose additional endorsements—especially among the national and local labor organizations that have worked closely with the party in New York, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and other communities across the country. Sanders backers expressed doubts that this would happen. They also pointed out that while Sanders once declared that “the WFP is the closest thing there is to a political party that believes in my vision of democratic socialism,” the party’s endorsements of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over Democratic primary rival Zephyr Teachout in 2014 and of New York Representative Joe Crowley against challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a 2018 primary had drawn criticism from progressives. (Notably, the party backed Cynthia Nixon’s 2018 from-the-left challenge to Cuomo, and earned high marks for throwing in early with the 2019 campaign of Tiffany Caban for Queens district attorney.)





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