Saturday, November 15, 2014

182.4 - Some good news from the election

Some good news from the election

Okay, it's been more than a week since the election and I expect people are feeling kinda down, not without cause, so I thought I would spend some time going over some bits of good news coming out of the election. They are sort of scattered around, but they are still worth noting.

For one thing, Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida won re-election by a double-digit margin. Which is worth noting because he was pretty much target #1 for the right -wing nutballs in this election.

For another, Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to be election to the House, was re-elected by a margin of over 40 points.

A small but interesting case involves the city of Richmond, California, home to a refinery operated by Chevron. A major fire a few years ago caused a lot of damage and the city sued Chevron to recover some of the costs. Rather than taking its chances in court, Chevron preferred to try to take over the city government. It ran a slate of hand-picked pro-corporate candidates into the city's elections and pumped in $3 million in advertising - remember, this is a municipal election - $3 million in advertising on behalf of its favored few.

They lost: Progressive candidates won the mayor's office and three of the four open seats on the City Council.

It is true in politics as elsewhere that money talks. But sometimes, just sometimes, people wisely refuse to listen.

On a matter we have talked about here any number of times, guns: Voters in the state of Washington voted to institute universal background checks on firearms purchases, including for gun shows and private sales, while at the same time rejecting a measure that would have banned background checks unless required by federal law. Both victories were by comfortable double-digit majorities.

The right-wing of course immediately tried to dismiss that result - because, remember, as far as they are concerned elections are meaningless unless they win, which is why voter suppression is, according to them, actually a matter of "protecting the integrity of the process." Anyway, the right-wing site blew the Washington vote off based on wins in various races across the country by candidates endorsed by the NRA, the Nutzoid Rabbit-Brains of America, claiming that means that nationally, gun control advocates got a "shellacking" - even though guns were not an issue in most of those campaigns. Interestingly and perhaps revealingly, does not mention the fact that the NRA, knowing it would lost the Washington vote, never contested it. Could it be that a good part of the reason the Nutzoids seem to win so often is that they only get involved when they're confident they will?

On another front, Massachusetts has become the third state in the nation to require employers to grant people paid sick time. Two major municipalities - Trenton and Montclair, NJ - did the same and Oakland, California, approved an expanded version of that state's requirement.

This is something that is gaining ground: Just two years ago, just one state and three cities had such laws. Now, the number is three states and sixteen cities.

Meanwhile, Oregon and Alaska became the third and fourth states to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, following the path set by Colorado and Washington, while the District of Columbia repealed all penalties for possession of small amounts and even allowed for some limited, private cultivation of the drug.

A vote in Florida to legalize medical marijuana received 57 percent of the vote. Unfortunately, it failed because this was a proposed constitutional amendment, which requires 60 percent to pass. But still, it got 57 percent despite a massive onslaught of misleading ads involving gross exaggeration and fear-mongering.

However, most of the results I just cited have come in places generally thought of as more or less liberal: California, Washington, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon. But now, the references to Alaska and to some extent Florida get us to the meat of this, the meat of what I wanted to consider, the meat of both the elation and the frustration, the hope and the despair: The people of the United States continue to vote for liberal or progressive policies even as they vote for reactionary right-wing candidates.

Here's an example: The city of Denton, Texas, known as the place where hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking,"  was invented, voted to ban the process in the city.

Fracking, in case you're not familiar with it, is a means of increasing production from oil and natural gas wells by pumping a mix of water, sludge, and one of several different cocktails of toxic chemicals - we don't know exactly what ones because the mixtures are considered a "trade secret" which the companies do not have to reveal - pumping that mixture into a well under such pressure that it literally fractures the surrounding rock, allowing more fossil fuel to be extracted from the fissures created. The practice has been connected to contaminated water supplies and earthquakes.

And by a margin of 18 points, the voters of Denton made it the first city in Texas to ban fracking in wells in the city.

Similar bans passed in Mendocino and San Benito counties in California and the city of Athens, Ohio. Unhappily, attempts at such bans lost in another California country and three cities in Ohio. But as Bruce Baizel of the group Earthworks said, if Denton, which probably is more familiar with fracking than anywhere else, "can’t live with fracking, then who can? The answer is ‘no one.’"

Even on reproductive rights, an area where we seem to be moving backward, it developed that there are limits to just how far back we will slide. A so-called “personhood” measure is one that declares a fetus - even a zygote - is a "person" with full legal rights from the very moment of conception. Such measures would not only ban all abortions, they would even ban some methods of birth control.

Well, in North Dakota, a state so against abortion that only one provider survives in the entire state, 64 percent of voters just rejected a personhood initiative, repeating the result that occurred in Mississippi three years ago. Another personhood proposal was on the ballot in Colorado. That one, too, failed. But that was expected. But North Dakota?

Another area about which very little got mentioned: Conservative groups made a big push to oust certain elected state Supreme Court justices in Tennessee, North Carolina, Kansas, and Montana on the grounds that they are too liberal - which means they are liberal to any degree at all, which in the wingnut ads became dangerously radical. All together, there were 9 judges targeted across the four states, three of them safely red, one ambiguously purple. Despite the assault, every one of those nine judges kept their seat.

But the big one, the one that had everyone talking, was the minimum wage. Initiatives to raise the minimum wage appeared on the ballots in four of the deepest-red states: Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Every one of them passed by margins ranging from 10 to 38 points, passed in states that on the same day sent to Congress a slew of right-wing fanatics who would do away with the minimum wage completely if they possibly could.

This is nothing new, this is a continuing pattern that goes back at least thirty years, and probably longer. But I say 30 years because I specifically remember that in the presidential election of 1984, with Walter Mondale going against Ronald Reagan, public polls were asking people "how do you feel about this issue and that issue and the other issue" and over and over again, the answers people gave lined them up more with Mondale than with Reagan. But when those same polls asked "who are you voting for," the overwhelming answer, reflected in the final result, was "Reagan." People were not only voting against their own interests, they were voting against their own desires.

And they still are.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that they are not voting at all: Turnout for the 2014 midterms is estimated at 36%. Apparently, a lot of us think the right to vote is so precious that we'd better not touch it at all.

Now, that is something to get depressed about.

Sources cited in links:

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