No matter the issue, if it affects working people, William McNary, president of USAction, is there, fighting the good fight for social and health security, quality public schools and against the right-wing agenda.

“That’s a big order but it can be won with leadership and organization. If we had elected leaders who would stand as firmly for these issues as others stand for Wall Street, we’d be well on the road to winning them,” he said in a recent interview. “If we are to win these things we must build political power at the grass roots,”

McNary said he goes where he is asked and that right now his priority is the Nov. 5 election. There, USAction is working with others to elect candidates who, McNary says, have “a moral commitment to changing people’s lives. We cannot be content to elect people who are only driven by their personal ego and ambitions. Candidates who win elections have a major voice in determining who gets how much of what. If we don’t do politics, politicians will do us in.”

McNary doesn’t see himself as a radical. He said he “doesn’t care” about labels that are all too often “a cute way of saying nothing. Take ‘compassionate conservative.’ What does that mean?”

McNary said a conservative is one who sees the world as it was and yearns for a return to the “good old days. But they never say when those days were or what was good about them. On the other hand, progressives – and I’m one of them – look at the world as it is and fight to make it better.”

USAction bases its electoral/political activity on a three-pronged strategy. “First, we need law-based public policy change. That means it’s up to the movement for social justice to change the balance of forces. That will make it possible to elect public officials pledged to implement these changes. … We must [also] build coalitions aimed at consolidating strong institutions. We can learn from the right wing when it comes organizing and packaging our issues. They are smart and bold, but we can be smart and bold, too. We just have to decide to do it.”

McNary is concerned about what he perceives as a lack of interest in the elections in the African-American community. “We have the most to win or lose depending on their outcome,” he said.

USAction, founded in 1999, has three million members with 33 affiliates in 23 states. McNary was elected president at its founding convention.

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Fred Gaboury
Fred Gaboury

Fred Gaboury was a member of the Editorial Board of the print edition of  People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo and wrote frequently on economic, labor and political issues. Gaboury died in 2004. Here is a small selection of Fred’s significant writings: Eight days in May Birmingham and the struggle for civil rights; Remembering the Rev. James Orange; Memphis 1968: We remember; June 19, 1953: The murder of the Rosenbergs; World Bank and International Monetary Fund strangle economies of Third World countries