I admit that it’s hard in these post-election days to maintain a sense of hope in the face of the grief, anger and outrage over the prospect of a second Bush term.
But millions of us spent these last months agitating, organizing, educating and mobilizing with an intensity, cooperation and discipline rarely seen. We’re not going away. I don’t know about you, but everyone I’ve spoken with understands that this isn’t the time to retreat, that their commitment is needed now more than ever and that we need to build on the energy unleashed and the structures put in place.
Part of building to win means understanding what we lost and why; but it also requires understanding, patience and the ability to celebrate the small but sweet victories in this election year. Here are a few worth celebrating:
*DAVID SOARES, a young activist attorney who ran against the draconian Rockefeller drug laws on the Democratic and Working Families Party (WFP) lines, survived an ugly campaign to become Albany County District Attorney. Soares’ courageous advocacy for an end to New York’s wasteful drug laws turned his campaign into a crusade.
On election night, Soares told a packed ballroom that with the help of the WFP and Citizen Action, a new coalition within the Democratic Party brought together “young and old, black and white and all the shades in between, straight and gay, women, labor and environmentalists.”
Soares’s victory is evidence that a campaign that has a clear position on key issues, that appeals to the voters’ best instincts, and that is unrelenting in getting its message out door-by-door can overcome the advantages of incumbency.
On election night, Soares also spoke about what his victory signals for the state’s harsh drug laws. “The voters have demanded that the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed. Every district attorney in the state clinging to these archaic laws will hear today’s results. The legislature must act, and the recalcitrant DAs must get out of the way–or else go the way of the Albany County incumbent.” Soares’ victory–both in the primary and the general election–proves not only that a candidate can run and win on a platform that emphasizes sensible drug law reform–but that it might actually be a winning issue.
* FLORIDA AND NEVADA MINIUMUM WAGE INITIATIVES. Florida voters approved by overwhelming margins (72 percent to 28 percent) the statewide ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage by one dollar an hour to $6.15/hour (and index it to inflation). Sponsored by ACORN with a broad coalition of unions and other liberal groups, the measure passed despite the united opposition (and heavy spending) of Florida’s big business community. The figures show that many Floridians, including many middle-class voters (even some evangelicals) who voted for Bush and Mel Martinez for Senator, also voted to raise the minimum wage.
In Nevada, the initiative also passed by large margins (68 percent to 32 percent).
Results show that voters may like Bush on abortion, gay rights and terrorism, but that they are unhappy with his handling of the economy, the growing number of working poor and increasing job insecurity. Progressive groups like ACORN, which did such extraordinary organizing and mobilization around this issue in Florida, are gearing up to make this a national issue. (For more information, click here.)
* OTHER PROGRESSIVE INITIATIVE VICTORIES include one on increased funding for renewable energy in Colorado (that likely helped elect Ken Salazar to the Senate); the clean-up of the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington; the expansion of healthcare through tobacco taxes in Colorado, Montana, and Oklahoma; stem cell research and mental health funding in California; the legalization of medical marijuana in Montana and the defeat of tax cuts in Maine and Washington.
* Democrats took back the STATE LEGISLATURES in Colorado and North Carolina–a good win as critical political policy-making increasingly shifts to the states.
* Thirteen CAMP WELLSTONE graduates won races for the state legislature, school board and city council in Minnesota. The camp, dedicated to training and organizing candidates and activists committed to Paul and Sheila Wellstone’s ideals and approach to politics (combining the power of grassroots organizing with citizen participation), intends to continue turning out a new generation of political leaders in 2005 and beyond.
* In New York State, the WORKING FAMILIES PARTY did well. Approximately 120,000 of John Kerry’s votes came on Row E, which was a WFP record and will help the party continue to use fusion voting to add to the electoral infrastructure of progresives.
* PROGRESSIVE MAJORITY–the only national organization dedicated to building a permanent progressive candidate recruitment program–elected two new members to the Pennsylvania legislature. In Washington State, Progressive Majority helped shift control of the State senate, and held its ground in Wisconsin even though conservatives turned out in record numbers. In all, 41 percent of Progressive Majority’s candidates won election this cycle, a remarkable accomplishment given national trends this year.
You may know of other small victories around the country. Please click here to share them with me so I can spread the word as we revive, regroup and rebuild.