Politics are Local, but Impact is National

Midterm Elections Minimum WageNew Orleans    The old saw that “all politics are local,” has a lot of merit, but added up, the impact in national. That is alternately both a depressing and hopeful sign in the tea leaves still gathering from the midterm election.

The Republicans took the Senate. Impossible not to see the president as crippled in his last two lame duck years. He’ll be flying even lower than he has been, and he’s already buzzing way too close to the ground.

So much for immigration reform, legislative progress on climate change, and much of anything else, though I would still argue there’s an outside chance for a small federal minimum wage adjustment. Fixing the Affordable Care Act in a good way is also not going to happen, nor is it likely we’ll see much Medicaid expansion.

But, it’s not the end of the world, no matter how bleak, when you look at some of the local elections where the toxic referendum on the President was not the Republican’s multi-billion dollar message.

Three state minimum wage efforts won with Arkansas leading with 65% of the vote and moving to $8.50 by 2017 and Nebraska going to $9.00. South Dakota also won and Alaska seems likely once all of the votes are counted. Let’s have more of this!

Some of the hipsters argue that the toxicity of Washington, D.C. should decrease a little bit now that voters in the nation’s capital have voted to legalize marijuana possession. There’s no smoking anymore in the halls of Congress, but maybe they’ll be more chill on the streets.

Colorado and North Dakota rejected restrictions on abortion. Massachusetts voters approved what is likely the most liberal and comprehensive sick time provision allowing accrual of up to 40 hours of sick pay for workers. Teachers even won in Missouri in bringing some rationality around linking pay to performance of students with other measures in Washington State still possible. GMO labeling fared less well in Colorado.

So, I was wrong that this election might not be settled until the “ladies sing” in runoffs. Louisiana has one with Senator Mary Landrieu, but her chances of winning are now exceedingly slim since she campaigned on delivering pork, and will now be stripped of her Chairman’s title on the Energy Committee. There was no runoff in Georgia. So much for all that.

On the other hand the race by the San Francisco Bay in Richmond where progressives have battled Chevron, who spent $3 million to influence the city council and mayor’s races turned out fine with Arkansas-born Tom Butt  won as Mayor and council seats were taken by all of the endorsees of the Richmond Progressive Alliance.

The lesson I draw is simple: we can win, but we need a bigger base with more boots on the ground and issues that speak directly to our base.

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