Tag Archives: elections

Ballot Measures Reveal a Kinder and Gentler America

New Orleans    The headline may be that the Senate is increasingly Republican, seeming to have picked up a couple of seats, and the House has seen the Democrats take control, picking up at least twenty-six seats, but that’s only part of the story.  When we move from the partisan divisions to look at some of the marquee ballot propositions, there’s an argument to be made that the majority is kinder and gentler than many in the parties and more progressive as well.

In blood red Louisiana, voters solidly ditched the requirement for unanimous juries that dated back 120 years to the Jim Crow racism that allowed 10 of 12 jurors to convict in a felony trial.  The top of the ballot may have been disappointing, though history was almost made in Florida, but on the ballot proposition voters restored the ability to vote to felons, which could be huge in that state in future elections.

Minimum wages measures reported thus far indicate that Arkansas and Missouri solidly approved significant increases in the minimum wage in both of those states.  It’s worth noting that we have not had an increase in the federal minimum wage since the end of George W Bush’s stint in the White House.  That’s ten long years, but there has not been a statewide ballot initiative on minimum wage that has lost since 1996!  What does that tell you about the deep support for a living wage across the map?  The results are still coming in and they aren’t all positive, but anti-gerrymandering measures have been approved in several places as well as climate change measures.  No matter what the president claims, the majority of Americans, when given a fair choice want to see everyone do better.  There’s love in the ballot propositions no matter how much hate there is in our politicians.

We also saw something else in the balloting in the midterms:  voting access matters.  At this minute Georgia has not been finally established, but the shenanigans by the secretary of state and now likely governor in that state were huge in the results.   Given the closeness of the race in Florida, it hard not to see the denial of ballot access as anything other than significant there.

On the bright side, voters pushed out two of the most militant vote suppressors and anti-poor people in the country.  Only two years ago Scott Walker in Wisconsin was arguing that his anti-union, anti-people program in that state was the ticket to the future.  He’s now on the unemployment line, and in a rich irony a former superintendent of education is going to be governor.  There can’t be a much more Republican state than Kansas, but Kris Kobach who has made a national reputation out of immigrant bashing and voter suppression in that state and others, even as secretary of state in Kansas, is now also hoping Trump gives him some kind of low-level job somewhere, because a female, Democratic legislator beat him for governor.

I don’t want any of us to be quick to judgement.  There’s a lot to learn from how people voted, and we need to look at ballot measures and candidates who speak to these lessons.


Public Interest Network Filling Some of Old ACORN Space

New Orleans     Talking to old friend and comrade, Zach Polett, on Wade’s World was great fun, and, as always, a political education about the state of play around the country.  Sitting in the KABF broadcast studio, we began by noting that the station was celebrating completing its 34th year, having gone on-the-air at the end of August, 1984.  I asked Zach, if he wasn’t the head organizer for Arkansas ACORN at the time, and indeed he was there as Scott Holliday hit the buttons to begin this long playing “voice of the people” station that is now an institution in central Arkansas

Before the show went on the air, I joked with Zach that I was happy to have him on so that I could finally understand what his current job really entailed, and he laughed and said essentially “about the same as it was,” just not ACORN.  Over recent years since the shuttering of ACORN in the US, Zach has been campaign director for the Public Interest Network, the network directed by Doug Phelps that also includes the old Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a legacy of Ralph Nadar, and Environmental America, a membership organization.  By the end of the show, it was clear that Zach was still as up to his elbows in progressive politics, initiatives, voter registration and engagement, as he was for all his years as ACORN’s political director.

Their voter registration program is focused on six states, and for the most part they are the ones that count mightily for the mid-terms, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, and California.  He expects their new registrations might hit 175,000, which he noted isn’t ACORN-scale, but still makes a big difference.  And, he’s right!  Talking later about North Carolina’s latest slap down by federal judges of their Republican legislature’s ham-fisted and discriminatory gerrymandering based on race and of course power, he commented that looking at the decision it was clear that the judges had just gotten ticked and lost patience with the gang, not caring what little time they had before the vote.

Looking at the political landscape from his position on the playing field, Zach was less optimistic than many of the Demo-strategists and pundits about the chances of control of the House of Representatives flipping in the mid-terms.  His verdict was basically, it’s possible, but let’s see if the Democrats can’t blow it.  Two ways that could hurt he underlined would be continuing to talk about disbanding ICE and impeaching Trump, both of which are playing into the President’s hands and are likely to energize their base.  Though complimenting California billionaire Tom Steyer on his contribution to making a relatively unknown African-American mayor the Democratic nominee for governor in Florida, Zach was plain-spoken about the damage Steyer’s impeachment drumbeating is doing.  When it comes to the Senate, Zach thought the Democrats would lose three or four seats this round short of a miracle, though he thought John Tester would survive in Montana.

The more we talked about the national scene, it was clear that Zach and the Public Interest Network have done a good job of filling some of the space left with ACORN’s departure from the national field, albeit with a different constituency and policy tilt, and that’s a blessing for the hopes of American democracy now and in the future.