Please Note: Democratic Candidates May Have Lost, But Progressive Issues Won

— by David Morris (reposted from CommonDreams)

Ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues are not disrupted by the personality politics and subterfuge that dominate candidate races. (Photo: Susy Morris/flickr/cc)

On November 4th Democrats lost big when they ran a candidate but won big when they ran an issue.

In 42 states about 150 initiatives were on the ballot. The vast majority did not address issues dividing the two parties (e.g. raising the mandatory retirement age for judges, salary increases for state legislators, bond issues supporting a range of projects).  But scores of initiatives did involve hot button issues.  And on these American voters proved astonishingly liberal.

Quote01Voters approved every initiative to legalize or significantly reduce the penalties for marijuana possession (Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Washington, D.C.)  It is true that a Florida measure to legalize medical marijuana lost but 57 percent voted in favor (60 percent was required).

Voters approved every initiative to raise the minimum wage (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota). Voters in San Francisco and Oakland approved initiatives to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.  The good citizens of Oakland and Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved more generous paid sick leave.

Both Colorado and North Dakota voters rejected measures that would have given the fertilized egg personhood under their criminal codes.

Washington state voters approved background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private transactions.

By a wide margin Missourians rejected a constitutional amendment to require teachers to be evaluated based on test results and fired or demoted virtually at will.

By a 59-41 margin North Dakotans voted to keep their unique statute outlawing absentee owned pharmacies despite Walmart outspending independent pharmacist supporters at least ten to one.

The vote in Colorado offers a good example of the disparity between how Americans vote on candidates and how we vote on issues.  A few years ago the Colorado legislature stripped cities and counties of the right to build their own telecommunications networks but it allowed them to reclaim that authority if they put it to a vote of their citizens.  On Tuesday 8 cities and counties did just that. Residents in every community voted by a very wide margin to permit government owned networks even while they were voting by an equally wide margin for Republican candidates who vigorously oppose government ownership of anything.

Republicans did gain a number of important victories. Most of these dealt with taxes. For example, Georgia voters by a wide margin supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state legislature from raising the maximum state income tax rate. Massachusetts’ voters narrowly voted to overturn a law indexing the state gasoline tax to the consumer price increase.

What did Tuesday tell us?  When given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat candidate the majority of voters chose the Republican.  When given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat position on an issue they chose the Democrat.  I’ll leave it up to others to debate the reasons behind this apparent contradiction.  My own opinion is that ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues must focus on issues, not personality, temperament or looks.  Those on both sides of the issue can exaggerate, distort and just plain lie but they must do so in reference to the question on the ballot.  No ballot initiative ever lost because one of its main backers attended a strip club 16 years earlier.

I am buoyed by the empirical evidence: Americans even in deeply red regions are liberal on many key issues. And I am saddened that these same voters have voted to enhance the power of a party at odds with the values these voters have expressed.  The challenge, and in an age where billions of dollars in negative sound-bites define a candidate it is a daunting one, is how to make the next election on issues, not personalities.

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

David Morris is Vice President and director of the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. focusing on local economic and social development.

Fixing the Budget by $6.2T over 10 years

— by Connect the Dots USA on Facebook

Instead of attacking struggling seniors, veterans, children and the working poor by slowing the inflation growth rate of an average $1,200/month Social Security check, shifting more healthcare costs to 65 and 66-year-olds and their employers, or slashing food stamps and Medicaid that are lifelines for working poor families, how about we try these 10 budget fixes first? By contrast, these policies primarily or exclusively affect the wealthy, while achieving lots more revenue/savings.


As President Obama has previously criticized the mean, brutish Republican cuts: “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.”

Or to borrow from Bill Maher, the GOP budget plan goes after children, the poor, the jobless, the old and the sick. This is picking on the weakest kid on the playground and getting called courageous. Courage would have been going after the rich and the defense department.

The Republican fixation with cutting Social Security benefits or raising the eligibility age for Medicare fail to achieve much savings and have absolutely nothing to do with the “fiscal cliff.” (Social Security doesn’t even have anything to do with the deficit/debt generally). They are, as Nancy Pelosi described them, simply “trophies” that the GOP want to claim in their ceaseless war on FDR’s New Deal and President Johnson’s Great Society.

Related Resources:

Do You Pay More Tax Than Mitt Romney?

With Tax Day Approaching, Nevadans Shocked to Learn
They Pay Higher Taxes Than Mitt Romney

Las Vegas, NV – As Nevadans prepare to file their federal tax returns, it isn’t exactly comforting to them that many multi-millionaires are actually paying a lower tax rate than the average Nevada family.  Who are these multi-millionaires?  Well, corporate layoff specialist Mitt Romney for one.

In 2010, Romney paid less than what most middle-income Americans were required to pay. He made $21.7 million and paid nearly $3 million in taxes. That’s a tax rate of 13.9 percent.

How much does the average American family pay? 20%!

And this is what it looks like in Nevada:

  • The average, single teacher in the state of Nevada gets paid a salary of $51,777 and has a tax rate of 20.1 percent. That is 6.2 percent more than Mitt Romney pays.
  • The average, single housekeeper in the state of Nevada gets paid a salary of $27,090 and has a tax rate of 17.4 percent. That is 3.5 percent more than Mitt Romney pays.
  • The average, single registered nurse in the state of Nevada gets paid a salary of $77,480 and has a tax rate of 23.3 percent. That is 9.4 percent more than Mitt Romney pays.

[Source: Reno Gazette-Journal, 2/22/11; Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2011;]

Romney contributed just 0.1 percent of his income to Social Security and Medicare in 2010 via the payroll tax because the tax is only assessed on earned wages, but all of Romney’s income came from investments.  Most working Americans pay 7.65 percent.  Considering how little he contributes to Medicare, it’s no wonder Romney has no problem ending it by turning it over to private insurance companies.  But we digress…