New Party (United States)

New Party (United States)
New Party
Founded 1992
Dissolved 1998
Headquarters 88 Third Ave., Suite 313
Brooklyn, NY
Ideology Social democratic

The New Party was a third political party in the United States that tried to re-introduce the practice of electoral fusion as a political strategy for labor unions and community organizing groups. In electoral fusion, the same candidate receives nomination from more than one political party and occupies more than one ballot line. Fusion was once common in the United States but is now commonly practiced only in New York State, although it is allowed by law in seven other states. The party was active from 1992 to 1998. There had been an earlier New Party in 1968 that ran Eugene McCarthy for President.

The New Party was founded in the early 1990s by Daniel Cantor, a former staffer for Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign, and by sociology and law professor Joel Rogers as an effort to break with the largely unsuccessful history of left-leaning third parties in the United States. Their strategy was to run candidates only where they had a reasonable chance of winning, and to nominate on their ballot line (or where this was not legally possible, to endorse) the candidate they favored more from another party.[1]

The party could best be described as social democratic in orientation, although party statements almost invariably used the terms "small-d democratic" or "progressive" instead. Its founders chose the name "New Party" in an effort to strike a fresh tone, free of associations with dogmas and ideological debates.

After a false start in New York, the New Party built modestly successful chapters in several states. Some of these chapters — such as those in Chicago and Little Rock — had their main bases of support in the low-income community organizing group ACORN, along with some support from various labor unions (especially ACORN-allied locals of the Service Employees International Union). Other chapters — such as those in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Missoula, Montana; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Dane County, Wisconsin, received institutional support from a variety of other labor unions and community organizations. These chapters built local political organizations that ran or endorsed candidates, primarily in local non-partisan races but with occasional forays into Democratic Party primaries or (more rarely) traditional third party-style independent candidacies as well. The party's chapters endorsed hundreds of political candidates,[2][3] including Illinois Rep. Danny K. Davis.[4] Some New Party chapters introduced the idea of a contract for candidates to sign, to encourage accountability to the promises they had made the party in exchange for an endorsement, an idea that met with some resistance.[5][6][7] Party chapters were also active between elections, pressuring elected officials to pass legislation on issues such as living wages and affordable housing.

Left-wing critics of the New Party, such as supporters of the Green Party, argued that the New Party was merely a pressure group on the fringes of the Democratic Party, rather than a genuinely new political party.[citation needed] New Party leaders argued that classic third-party strategies were doomed to failure, but that the Democratic Party was too entrenched and undemocratic to be a useful institution for "small-d democrats" either, even if they could succeed in taking it over, and so a new kind of organization was needed.[citation needed] In Madison and some other cities, the New Party partnered with Green candidates.[8]

Although the party's founders hoped to foster a shift in the United States toward electoral fusion, they were not successful in doing so. Their hopes rested largely on the U.S. Supreme Court case Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party. In 1997, the Court, in a 6-3 decision, upheld the Minnesota ban on cross-endorsing candidates, rejecting the New Party's argument that electoral fusion was a right protected by the First Amendment's freedom of association clause.[9][10]

After the Timmons case, the New Party quickly declined. Several chapters — initially, those chapters not connected with ACORN — disaffiliated. Perhaps the only and certainly the most successful surviving local chapter, known as Progressive Dane, remains active and relevant in Dane County, Wisconsin. Cantor and other key staff members left to found the Working Families Party of New York (1998),[10] an organization which has had considerable success in building a New Party-style organization within New York state, and which now has expanded into other states that have fusion voting.


  1. ^ Joel Rogers (4 October 1993), "It is third party time?", In These Times 
  2. ^ Archived New Party web page detailing more than 200 successful candidates they supported
  3. ^ Bruce Bentley, New Ground 42 (September-October 1995), Chicago New Party Update
  4. ^ Jim Cullen (November 1996), "The next campaign", The Progressive Populist, 
  5. ^ Bystydzienski, Jill M; Steven P. Schach (2001). Forging Radical Alliances Across Difference. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 227. ISBN 0742510581.  page 126-127
  6. ^ [1] Archive of April 1994 progress report
  7. ^ [2] Archive of New Party of Illinois Candidate Contract
  8. ^ John Nichols (10 July 2000), "Three's Company", In These Times, 
  9. ^ Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party (95-1608), 520 U.S. 351 (1997)
  10. ^ a b Doug Ireland (18 March 2002), "Animals", In These Times 26 (8): p. 25, 

External links

Further reading

Micah L. Sifry, Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America (2001)

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