Stanley Kurtz has helpfully revealed that Barack Obama was once a member of the New Party, a Social Democratic third party. And while many on the right continue to insist that this election ought to focus exclusively on the economy to the exclusion of all else, Obama’s past associations are germane to his views on economic growth and American competitiveness.
Indeed, when examining what the New Party once believed on wages, taxes, and campaign finance reform, it seems as if Barack Obama is carrying out their platform as President of the United States. This is precisely why the vetting project is so important: who Obama is, what he once thought, and what he will do next can be the means of understanding and ultimately defeating him.
Therefore, it helps to examine the New Party’s founder, Dan Kantor, and the positions for which the New Party once stood. On September 28, 1995, National Public Radio interviewed Kantor as part of a segment examining third party’s influence. Here’s Madeline Brand describing the New Party platform:
The New Party is for a higher minimum wage, a higher corporate tax, and campaign finance reform. They are fielding candidates in small local elections for school boards, zoning boards, and city councils, most non-partisan races. Kantor says a party that will last should be built from the bottom up.
A “higher minimum wage, a higher corporate tax, and campaign finance reform.” In other words, The New Party’s platform is exactly the platform of Barack Obama as president of the United States.
Obama would have been sympathetic to the ends of the New Party in the 1990s. Indeed, it is arguably a party of community organizers, for community organizers, and by community organizers. Says Kantor, again in 1995:
What you want are lots of institutions between you and the state – unions, community groups, trade associations, neighborhood groups, whatever – that can actually exercise power. People can self-govern if they have tools and resources and confidence and information.
This is the argot of the community organizer, something that Obama would have known well.
And the New Party was a means of trying to push the Democratic Party further to the left after Clinton had moved it to the center. Obama himself rebukes Clinton’s ‘Third Way’ in Dreams calling it a “scaled-back welfare state without grand ambition but without sharp edges.” It was Obama and the New Party that would force the Third Way in a more progressive direction.
It’s easy to see what Obama saw in the New Party, with its 6,000 members nationwide and its activity in ten states. He saw political opportunity and ideological friends. “Over the past two years 80 New Party candidates have won local elections,” NPR noted. “Most of the action is in the Midwest. Milwaukee has a strong chapter with a New Party member winning a seat on the state legislature there.”
For Dan Kantor, using minor parties to affect the outcome of elections became his life’s work. He ultimately became head of a more successful third party, the Working Families Party in New York, which ultimately decided the outcome of the 2000 Senate election of Hilary Clinton.