Labor Party Press
Terry Bouricius, a state representative from Vermont was
elected along with four others on the Progressive Party slate. He spoke on
the convention floor in opposition to a proposal that would have allowed the Labor Party
to endorse candidates running on the slate of another party.
Im very excited that the delegates decided to move forward
with serious electoral campaigns. While I think that electoral work should not divert us
from basic grassroots organizing, I believe they go hand-in-hand. There are just many
people who think you are not serious about politics unless youre contending for
power. And the people who joined the Labor Party are people who wanted to join a party
and thats what parties do.
But the seriousness with which it is being approached is also encouraging.
There is a role I think for third parties that are purely for protest purposes, to try and
do voter education thats fine. But the Labor Party is not about that.
Ironically, the wording that I defended in my motion on the convention
floor is actually far from ideal for me personally, as someone who ran and was elected as
a Progressive Party candidate in Vermont. Because the Labor Party was not yet in the
electoral game when I ran, those of us locally who were running for reelection did not
have the option of using the words "Labor Party." So instead we organized what
had been a longstanding coalition into a new party the Progressive Party of
Vermont. Based on the electoral resolution that passed, we will have a decision to make in
two years, to run as either the Progressive Party or the Labor Party.
I would have preferred an amendment that only precluded the Labor Party
from cross-endorsing or supporting candidates who were running with any political party
that accepted contributions from corporations. But my highest priority is to keep the
Labor Party from allying with corporate-supported parties. The reason I support the Labor
Party rather than the New Party is specifically because I do not want to run the risk of
having it absorbed by the Democratic Party, of having Democratic Party opportunists
grabbing that label.
It would have been nice to have discussed that question for longer, but
when youre working with a group that large, you could spend all month debating
everything. Im sure some people are frustrated because they had excellent amendments
on all kinds of things ready to go and never got a chance to offer them. But practically
speaking, how else are you going to handle a convention that big?
The other thing I think the Labor Party should think about is voting
reform, such as proportional representation. Ive also been spending a lot of time on
something called "instant runoff voting." That idea is especially exciting
because its completely politically saleable to the major parties. What it does is
this: When voters go to vote in a statewide race, for governor, say, they get to rank
candidates in order of preference first, second and third choice. And then if
someone gets a majority of first-choice votes, youre done. But say there are three
or four candidates splitting the vote. Under our current system, you might have a Labor
Party or Green candidate taking some of the Democrats votes away, and the Republican
wins. Under instant runoff voting, if there is no majority winner, youre not done
yet. You have a runoff. But instead of calling voters back to the polls, you just declare
the bottom candidates defeated, look at those ballots, and transfer those ballots to those
voters second choice. So you determine which candidate is actually preferred by a
majority of voters.
Now, in New Mexico the Democrats really want this reform, because they
keep having to fight off third party people like the Greens. And in Alaska, the
Republicans want it because theres a Perot-style party vying for power.
But while the major parties see this reform as benefiting them in the
short term, it also helps us. It eliminates the calculation that voters make now about
spoiling and wasting votes the reason many voters vote for "the lesser of two
evils." So this reform completely opens the door for voters to vote for a third
party. For labor leaders, this would be great. Because they can go out and support the
Labor Party candidate, and still be supporting the Democrat if the Labor Party candidate
This reform has been offered in New Mexico as a constitutional amendment.
Its also been introduced in Vermont as a tri-partisan bill I sponsored it,
along with three Democrats and three Republicans. Theres growing interest in this
Im very excited about the Labor Partys Just Healthcare
campaign and the other new initiatives. Because thats a weak part of the Progressive
Party in Vermont. As individuals, we work with a lot of other groups for instance,
Ive been very active in the single-payer healthcare movement in Vermont. But as an
organization, we are basically mired in elections which of course is the fear that
a lot of people have in the Labor Party. Our out-of-election season work suffers.
So I hope that that segment of the Labor Party that is most excited by
those campaigns will do that work. Because it is seductive to fall into the trap of just
waiting till the next election comes around.