Story for The UpTake by Sheila Regan
In a city where the Democrats have had a monolithic stronghold for four decades, Socialist candidate Ty Moore believes many people feel disenfranchised as the DFL increasingly becomes “beholden to big business interests.” Moore, an Occupy Homes MN organizer and community activist, is one of three candidates from the Socialist Alternative party running for city councils this autumn in big cities (the others are running in Seattle and Boston), and he thinks that the 9th ward of Minneapolis is ready for the change.
In August, Moore’s campaign to succeed Council Member Gary Schiff, who is not running again, received the endorsement of the SEIU, which represents 30,000 workers and recently successfully won passage of a bill allowing Minnesota home health care workers to unionize. “It’s not so uncommon for a small local trade union to get behind left (wing) campaigns, but I don’t know the last time one of the major labor institutions in the state did so,” Moore says.
Minneapolis has had one socialist mayor in its history. Thomas Van Lear served from January 1, 1917 to January 6, 1919. Van Lear was defeated after one term, driven from office by an alliance of business interests (the same interests would wage war against the infant Teamsters Union on the city streets in the 1930s) and a propaganda campaign alleging that he wanted Germany to win World War I. In later life, Van Lear was a member of the Nonpartisan League. In office, Van Lear, a machinist by trade, fought for unions and municipal control of utilities, a concept that has gotten some traction this year, as well.
The Farmer-Labor party, which was Minnesota’s left-wing third party from 1918 up until Hubert Humphrey worked to merge it with the Democratic party in 1944, had its roots in socialism as well, having emerged from the Nonpartisan League, which was started by former Socialist Party organizer A.C. Townley. According to “Political Repression in Modern America from 1870 to 1976” by Robert Justin Goldstein, the Nonpartisan League endorsed state ownership of grain elevators, flour mills, packing houses and cold storage plants, state hail insurance and the operation of rural credit banks. The party claimed 12,000 members in Minnesota in 1917. There were three governors, four senators and numerous House of Representatives in Minnesota who were members of the Farmer-Labor party.
In recent decades, of course, the mere uttering of the word “socialism” has been enough to prevent ideas from being considered by elected officials. But Moore, whose candidacy is being taken seriously by political observers, has been working hard to change that on the streets of the 9th Ward in south central Minneapolis. Moore says he was still a teen when he became “very critical of the social order and capitalism.”
He visited Cuba when he was 17, and though he didn’t agree with Fidel Castro’s government, he saw a different model for health care and education that made him see it was possible to do things differently than we do in the United States.
Moore joined the Socialist Alternative party in 1998, and served on the National Committee since 2003. He was a staff organizer starting in 2007, and edited the party’s newspaper. The Socialist Alternative has 40 dues-paying members locally, and is involved in everything from union work to youth organizing, as well as work on environmental causes and more recently, Occupy Homes. Moore also has the support of the Green Party, many Latino community leaders and Occupy activists in addition to the endorsement of the SEIU. His main opponent in the Nov. 5 election is Alondra Cano, the DFL-endorsed candidate.
Continue Reading to Learn Why Ty Moore Thinks the 9th Ward May Elect A Socialist
Moore was one of the original members of the Occupy movement in Minneapolis, which highlighted injustices of the U.S.’s financial policies. However, it didn’t take long for Moore and others to realize that hanging out on a plaza would bring about limited results, so he joined a group of organizers that created Occupy Homes, which brought the Occupy movement to the defense of people whose homes were being foreclosed upon.
If he is elected, Moore has promised that he will only accept an average worker’s salary — the state’s median household income is $58,000 — not the full $80,000 salary that city council members receive. Moore says he’ll donate the rest to social justice organizations. (He also has pledged to refuse campaign contributions from big business).
At its base level, socialism for Moore is about what people need to live a decent life, including a home, a stable community and income that will meet basic needs. “The way capitalism is organized, it’s a system that puts profits above other social considerations,” he says. Socialism offers “democratic control of the economy, of the resources.”
Of course, as a City Council member, the scope of what a socialist can actually do is limited, but there are possibilities. For example, in Richmond, Calif., the city’s Green Party mayor has used the power of Emminent domain to compel banks to renegotiate mortgages at their current value, which Moore said, “stabilizes communities at the expense of the banks.”
Another way that a socialist viewpoint can be applied at the city level is in relationship to police. “I would like to see more community control of the civil review board,” Moore says.
Moore believes that if any Ward is going to elect a socialist candidate, it’s going to be the 9th ward. “The 9th ward is the most left leaning in the city,” he says. “There’s a long tradition of political activism, and it’s solidly middle class.” Plus, “it’s one of the most racially diverse ward in the city — all of those things point toward an extremely favorable atmosphere.”
In addition, the large immigrant and Latino populations in the 9th Ward favor a socialist candidate, Moore says, because “socialism is a mainstream idea” amongst the working class of many Latin American countries.
Besides that, Moore points to Minneapolis being the home of nine Fortune 500 companies, including U.S. Bank, Xcel Energy, Target Corp., and more. “It might not be one of the biggest cities in the country, but it’s the 5th largest in terms of Fortune 500 companies. There is tremendous wealth concentrated in this city. The CEO of Target makes three times more money in one day than most of his employees make in a year.”