Another midterm election, another shellacking for Democrats. But even while Democratic candidates lost badly, many liberal issues won—and won big, even in red states. Here are several reasons not to despair, which I’ll add to as results come in.
1. Voters Raise the Wage Floor
Two years of protest by low-wage workers are paying off: even conservatives understand that you can’t get by on $7.25. Four states plus San Francisco and Oakland voted to raise the wage on Tuesday. The most resounding victory for workers came in Alaska, where 69 percent of voters approved a measure that would set the minimum at $9.75 an hour by 2016. South Dakota’s minimum wage will rise to $8.50 in 2015, and like Alaska’s, it’ll be pegged to inflation after that. In Arkansas, voters supported a minimum-wage increase to $8.50 by a resounding 65-to-35-percent margin. Though $8.50 may not seem high compared to the $15-an-hour increase that was on the ballot in San Franciso, it’s actually more progressive than it seems. Nebraska voters, meanwhile, approved a ballot initiative to raise their state’s minimum to $9 an hour by 2016. Again, the measure passed easily, 62 to 38.
Voters in the Bay Area voted overwhelmingly to raise the wage floor: to $15 an hour in San Francisco and $12.25 in Oakland.
2. Personhood Fails, Again
Voters in Colorado and North Dakota rejected measures that would have given rights to fertilized eggs and potentially opened the door not only for the criminalization of abortion but also to prosecution of women who have miscarriages or use certain forms of birth control. This is the third time Coloradans have said no to fetal personhood—maybe now the religious right will finally give it up?
3. Weed Legalized in the Capital and in Two More States
Washington, DC, voters easily approved Measure 71, which legalizes marijuana for recreational use and possession of up to two ounces and six plants. “The people of DC have voted in favor of ending racially biased marijuana prohibition,” said Dr. Malik Burnett of the Drug Policy Alliance in a statement. Nine of ten people arrested for drug offenses in the District between 2009 and 2011 were black, though they make up only half of the city’s population and are no more likely to use drugs than whites. Unfortunately, because Congress has authority over the district’s legislation and budget, Republicans could kill the measure before it’s implemented. There’s precedent for overriding voters on the issue: Republicans spent eleven years blocking DC from opening medical marijuana dispensaries after they were approved in 1998.