Just Like in 2012, Progressive Ideas Win Big on Election Day

Photo: Tim Pierce

After President Obama won reelection in 2012, I pointed out how progressive ideas did really well when put to the vote by the public on ballot measures.  While the Republican party is celebrating their non-surprising gains in the legislative branch, progressive ideas absolutely dominated on the ballot, even in red states.

Taking a look at the 13 initiatives highlighted by CNN, 12 have been decided as of this writing.  In only one case did the progressive side lose and even that was not a majority loss (58% approved medical marijuana in Florida, 60% was needed).  CNN’s list did not include other victories for progressive thought, such as the legalization of marijuana in D.C. or the lopsided defeat of the North Dakota anti-choice measure.  Whether it was marijuana, minimum wage laws, birth control or most other issues, the left won.

The fact is, progressive thought is winning and winning big everywhere in the country, even in the alleged “red states”.  But the Republican wins would suggest a different story.  How to explain this?

The reasons are many but I’m reminded here of something Bill Maher recently asked of Senator Elizabeth Warren: “Why aren’t there more people who talk like you in the Democratic Party?”

Again, there are a lot of factors at play here but there is little doubt Democrats have been (and many still are) terrible at pointing out what is a progressive position and what is a conservative one on so many issues.  And when they fail to do that it not only makes voters ignorant as to who stands where, it takes all the energy out of your base and they will only lackadaisically support you, at best.  Seriously, Democratic candidates.  If you are going to lose, at least have some guts to speak forcefully about what it is your ideology means to the everyday person.  Maybe then you won’t have to watch so many of your candidates lose while so much of your ideology wins.

Marijuana legalization backed by Indiana State Police superintendent | The Courier-Journal | courier-journal.com

Marijuana legalization backed by Indiana State Police superintendent | The Courier-Journal | courier-journal.com.

Another state is considering following the lead of Washington and Colorado in legalizing marijuana and the head of the Indiana State Police is clearly on board with this measure.  In all likelihood, this is the first of many officials in law enforcement who will come out in support of these policies as they have seen the destructiveness of keeping pot illegal.  They have first-hand experience and recognize it is too costly for both the government and the non-violent offenders who have their lives unfairly altered by a possession conviction.  At a time when government budgets are tight, solutions must be found to balance out the deficits most levels of government are running.  The legalizing and heavy taxing of marijuana is a small but logical step in this process.

There is one kind of humorous exchange in the article.  First, the state police superintendent states, “If it were up to me I do believe I would legalize it and tax it.”  Then, there is the inevitable running from the statement by his organization, despite the fact he is the head of it:

Capt. Dave Bursten, state police spokesman, quickly backtracked from Whitesell’s statement…“Although the superintendent personally understands the theoretical argument for taxation and legalization, as a police officer with over 40 years of experience he does not support the legalization of marijuana.” (Emphasis added.)

Yeah, “he does not support” it except that if it were his choice, he would “legalize it and tax it”.  Totally different things and I’m sure no one with less than a preschool education would be the slightest bit confused by that.  It’s so silly how organizations have to pretend they are normal by society’s outdated standards and support the status quo despite the reality time and reason are quickly passing it by.  But it is always going to happen as an inevitable part of change and we will just have to accept it no matter how much we just want to laugh.

Obama Won the Presidency But the Left Won Even More

To the shock of no one actually paying attention to the 2012 election, President Obama won his reelection bid along with the popular vote.  This was not surprising to anyone following the polls showing the lead he had in the electoral college vote.  But there was a series of even bigger victories worth noting for progressive ideology and a positive (albeit incremental) move for the country as a whole to the political left.

Four More Years
Four More Years

Taking a look at the highlighted ballot measures for individual states reveals how successful progressive beliefs were in this election and how far and fast the country has moved, particularly on the issue of gay rights.  The most eye-catching measures may have been the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado.  This change in drug policy is long overdue in America and these victories bring the country one step closer to alleviating the problem and cost of incarcerating people for this non-violent crime, not to mention hurting the wallets of the violent drug cartels in Mexico.  There is still work to do here since it is illegal on the federal level but there is little doubt now where the U.S. is heading on this issue.  The prohibition of pot is coming to an end and it is only a matter of time before changes on the national level are made.

The state of Florida delivered two victories for the left on ballot measures.  Voters decided blocking women from obtaining abortions using public funding was the wrong way to go and this highly controversial issue is put to rest for now but certainly hasn’t seen its final challenge.  The other issue voted down was the limiting of the Affordable Care Act, particularly voiding the individual mandate for the state.  This went down in Florida but was successfully passed in three other heavily conservative states.  These measures are just for show, of course, as they are likely to be challenged in the courts and struck down as federal precedent will override intrusive state laws.  Three victories for the right, in some respect, but only short-lived ones at best.

But the biggest progressive victory of the night was, without a doubt, gay rights.  Minnesota voters turned down the chance to put a ban on gay marriage in their state constitution, the first defeat in the country of this type of measure.  What’s important here is the fact most of the previous measures of this kind were passed with 60% or more of the vote.  This will likely be the first of many defeats to come for these state constitution amendments.  Three states also took the further step of legalizing gay marriage.  This group of victories was capped by the election of the first gay Senator in U.S. history, Tammy Baldwin.  It should be noted Baldwin’s election comes in the state of Wisconsin where conservatives were recently celebrating victory in Governor Scott Walker’s recall election.  The tide turned quickly in Wisconsin and has clearly turned on the issue of gay rights in the United States.

Tammy Baldwin
Tammy Baldwin

There was one curious loss for the left on election night and it came in a state believed to be one of the most progressive in the country: California.  A ballot measure to ban the death penalty appears to be headed for defeat by a comfortable margin, a victory for those on the right who believe every life is precious and only God can judge when someone lives and dies.  Now they can properly kill people just as God intended.  I think that’s what was intended.  Seemingly intended.  Wait a sec, I’m choking on the confusion of the right’s rhetoric compared to their policy positions.  Regardless, the state of California has decided to continue shouldering the enormous economic cost of keeping prisoners on death row instead of the cheaper and more moral route of life sentences.  The likelihood of this conservative position lasting over time is still slim despite this outcome.

Overall, election night was good for the Democratic Party and great for the progressive minded.  The United States took a small but significant step in the right direction politically and will assuredly continue this progression in the foreseeable future.

Biggest blow to Mexico drug cartels? It could be on your state ballot. – CSMonitor.com

Biggest blow to Mexico drug cartels? It could be on your state ballot. – CSMonitor.com.

U.S. drug policy continuing to evolve.
U.S. drug policy continuing to evolve.

An important issue on the ballot for just a few states but the implications for drug policy across the United States in the future are tremendous.  The article points out the effects on the drug cartels at this time are not as big as they may seem but it is a step in the right direction to stem the violence in Latin America in the long run.  It is also an incremental move in the U.S. toward the seemingly inevitable legalization of marijuana nationwide.  As the public sees the effect on these states is not as bad as perceived and, in fact, is in many ways positive (similar to the medicinal use of pot), more legalization of the drug will occur and quite a few problems will be alleviated in America, such as the incarceration of non-violent criminals and the massive cost that has on communities and the prison system.  As time goes on, many of the myths surrounding marijuana use will be put to rest for good and we will be able to focus on more important issues in the area of drug policy.