America’s political, corporate, and media establishments were cocksure about their prognostications that a powerful “red wave” was about to hit America in this month’s elections. It would sweep Democrats out and push Republicans into office all across America, they exclaimed.
How shocking and embarrassing, then, that their raging wave turned out to be just a little ripple. Republicans ran poorly, and many Democrats ran well. Still, the Dem Party as a whole could’ve done even better if its meek, don’t-rock-the-boat leadership had been gutsier, more progressive, and – yes – more Democratic, in the FDR mold. Well, murmur the Party’s Washington hierarchy, we can’t get too far ahead of the people.
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Really? Why not ask the people themselves? That’s the virtue of the “ballot initiative” system. It allows grassroots groups to put issues up for a vote, rather than letting the public agenda be controlled by a clique of lobbyists, legislators, and party-line followers. This year, there were 132 of these initiatives on the ballots in 37 states, and more on local ballots. And vote after vote showed that the people are way ahead of the political insiders in support of strong progressive policies.
By big margins, three states said “to hell with the Republican Supreme Court,” enshrining women’s abortion rights in their state constitutions. South Dakota, supposedly a right-wing bastion, shoved their GOP governor and legislators aside to expand Medicaid health coverage to the state’s low-income families. In bright red Nebraska, nearly 60 percent of voters said yes! To a $15 minimum wage. A big majority in Illinois amended the state constitution to guarantee collective bargaining rights for workers. Seventy percent of New Mexico voters made funding of early childhood education a constitutional requirement.