While last year’s voters put a pack of reactionaries in charge of the new Congress, let’s not forget that bigger majorities of the same electorate leapt at the chance to say “yes” to an array of unabashedly progressive ballot initiatives.
For example, even though the crimson-red states of Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota elected GOP Senate candidates, voters in all four rejected the GOP’s low-wage policies by overwhelmingly approving minimum wage increases.
Also, big majorities in dozens of communities in five states voted for initiatives to get corporate money out of our elections, calling on Congress to let the people vote on a 28th Amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s corrosive Citizens United edict.
And there was a potpourri of other populist victories, including four places that chose to help poverty-level workers who face a truly sickening choice when they fall ill: Go to work sick, or stay home and lose their pay — or even their jobs.
Last year, proposals to provide paid sick leave for such employees passed in Oakland, California; Montclair and Trenton, New, Jersey; and Massachusetts.
In addition, four more communities voted to ban fracking in their areas, including a stunning landslide victory over Big Oil’s money and arrogance by grassroots rebels in the “gasocracy” of Texas. From Alaska to Florida, red state voters also took solidly progressive stands on such issues as conservation and marijuana legalization.
Leaders of the newly Republican-dominated Senate are strutting around, claiming to have a “mandate” for their agenda.
Yet the core message from last year’s elections isn’t that voters have embraced the GOP’s right-wing values and corporate agenda. It’s that that they don’t want namby-pamby Democrats.
To get more progressives elected, more genuinely progressive candidates must campaign unabashedly on the populist policies that most voters clearly favor.