Last week, we discussed some of the victories for progressives in the 2012 election, from re-electing President Obama and gaining a larger, more progressive, Democratic majority in the Senate, to winning marriage equality votes in four states and defeating leading tea party members of Congress. The good news is that there were even more progressive victories in last week’s election that we should celebrate and build upon. Here are some of them:
A More Diverse and Progressive House Democratic Caucus – House Democrats will make history in January as they will be the first major party caucus in U.S. history to be majority female and people of color. In total, at least 57 House Democrats will be women, 41 will be African American, and 23 will be Latino. By contrast, at least 90% of the House Republican Caucus will be white males.
The House will also have a number of new or returning progressive faces, including the following candidates who were endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s Progressive Action PAC - Alan Grayson (FL-09), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Rick Nolan (MN-08), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), and Mark Tacano (CA-41). In addition, progressive House candidate Ami Bera (CA-07) is leading in his race against GOP Congressman Dan Lungren, progressive Hakeem Jeffries won in New York’s 8th District, and Kyrsten Simena (AZ-09) has been declared the winner in her race. Ms. Sinema will be the first openly bisexual member of Congress and one of a record seven LGBT Americans serving in Congress.
Regaining Strength At the State Level – One of the worst impacts of progressives sitting on their hands in the 2010 elections was that Tea Party conservatives swept into power in state houses throughout the country just in time for Republicans to be able to control Congressional redistricting in a vast number of states. Such redistricting played a large role in the GOP keeping control of Congress in the 2012 elections. Fortunately, we did start to turn the tide back in those state houses this time around. In particular, a total of seven state houses changed from GOP to Democratic control, including both houses in Minnesota and Maine, and one house in New Hampshire. In addition, California Democrats finally managed to get the supermajorities that are required for revenue increases.
Rejecting Big Money in Politics – Voters resoundingly rejected the ability of corporations and billionaires to spend unfettered amounts of money to try to buy elections. In Colorado and Montana, voters overwhelmingly supported ballot initiatives urging a Constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions establishing a right to spend unlimited amounts on campaign contributions. Colorado Proposition 65 passed with 73.8% of the vote, while Montana Initiative I-166 received 74.8% support. Voters in 120 cities throughout the country passed similar initiatives. At the same time, voters in California did not fall for the misleading Proposition 32, which was billed as an effort to get special interest money out of politics, but would have actually shut unions and other “special interests” from engaging in political advocacy while including a long list of exemptions that would have allowed hedge funds, investment firms, real estate developers, insurance companies, and other corporate interests to continue buying elections at will.
Success on Other Ballot Proposals – Ballot proposals provided an opportunity to advance progressive causes in a number of other areas and, while we lost some of those proposals (for example, Californians rejected a proposal to abolish the death penalty), we also achieved some significant victories. Here are some examples:
In California, voters supported reforming the state’s three-strikes law by passing Proposition 36, and voted to increase taxes on the wealthy to fund education by passing Proposition 30.
In Florida, voters rejected the anti-ObamaCare Proposition 1, anti-tax Propositions 3 and 4, Proposition 6’s restrictions on public funding of abortions, and Proposition 8, which would have allowed for public funding of religious organizations.
In Idaho, voters rejected Propositions 1, 2, and 3, which would have undermined teachers’ collective bargaining rights and sought to subsidize students signing up for online charter schools.
In Maryland, voters approved the state DREAM Act, which allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents and who attended high school in Maryland for at least three years to be eligible for in-state tuition at public colleges in Maryland.
In Oregon, voters rejected phasing out the state estate tax (Proposition 84), and voted to allocate excess corporate taxes to education rather than refunding such money to corporations (Proposition 85).