Columbus—Americans who are frustrated with the broken politics of the moment will have plenty of opportunities to Occupy the Polls on Tuesday.
That’s what happened in Boulder, Colorado, last week, when voters shook things up by backing a referendum proposal that calls on Congress to enact a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision that corporations can spend as they choose to buy elections. The same election saw Boulder voters endorse a plan to end the city’s reliance on private power companies and replace them with a public utility.
There are big issues, big races and big tests of the political potency of organized labor, social movements and progressive politics playing out this Tuesday, on the busiest election day of 2011. In some cases, voting offers an opportunity to make an affirmative statement on behalf of a change in priorities. In other cases, there are opportunities to push back against bad politics and bad policies. In still others, there are signals to be sent about the politics of 2012.
Here are some of the big races to keep an eye on Tuesday:
1. OHIO REFERENDUM TO RENEW LABOR RIGHTS
The biggest vote comes in Ohio, where 1.3 million citizens signed petitions to force a referendum vote on whether to implement Governor John Kasich’s assault on collective bargaining rights for public employees and the ability of unions to represent workers on the job and in the political process. Tuesday’s vote, on Ohio Issue 2, has the potential to send a powerful signal about the ability of working people to challenge corporate power. If Ohioans vote “yes” to implement the Kasich’s law, corporations and their conservative allies win. If Ohioans vote “no” on Issue 2, it will be a win for unions and their progressive allies.
If union forces win big in Ohio, the message from that traditional battleground state will be two-fold:
First, Republican governors who attack collective bargaining, labor rights and public education and services will face political fights. Losing on Issue 2 would be a huge setback for Kasich. And that will encourage Wisconsinites who launch their drive to recall and remove Governor Scott Walker on November 15.
Second, Democrats at the national level will be challenged as well. If Ohioans send indicate that voters are determined to defend labor rights and public spending, Democratic governors and President Obama will face pressure to step on and take a stronger stand on those issues.
2. NEW JERSEY VOTE ON CHRIS CHRISTIE’S AGENDA
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the darling of the Republican right, the candidate conservatives wish was running for the GOP presidential nod. But Christie has problems at home. His approval ratings have fluctuated wildly, as he has attacked teachers and public services. Christie would like verity much to flip control of both houses of the state legislature from the Democrats to his Republican Party. He has campaigned aggressively, recruiting candidates, raising money and framing the election as a test of his agenda.