While San Francisco elections were largely anti-climactic, across the country voters rejected en masse
the right-wing Tea Party politics that have plagued national politics. Nowhere was it more obvious than Ohio – where voters decisively, by a 2-1 margin, crushed Republican Governor John Kasich’s attack on public employees. In Maine, voters rescued same-day voter registration from the right-wing Governor – as marriage equality advocates prepare to go back to the ballot next year. In Arizona, voters recalled GOP State Senator Russell Pearce, who authored the anti-immigrant SB 1070. Even in Mississippi, voters rejected an extreme measure that would define a fetus as a person. After polls closed on the East Coast and before they closed in San Francisco, I followed these results on my laptop – giddy with excitement, as if America had finally awaken from a coma and was back. I hadn’t felt this much hope and optimism about politics since 2008.
Once it became clear that Ohio’s Issue 2 – which would take away the right of the state’s public employees to collectively bargain – was going down in flames, Governor Kasich made a televised concession speech. It was defensive and defiant (he said he would “take a deep breath” and “assess where the voters are” at least three times), while trying to save face about how his intentions had “always just been” to “help create jobs” in Ohio.
It is clear that Issue 2’s defeat
– along with increased public awareness and anger at the wealth gap in America – has angered and confused Republicans, and they don’t know how to respond. On Twitter, one right-wing blogger lamely tried to spin Issue 2’s defeat as a statement against incumbents – even though Governor Kasich himself was not on the ballot. To which I responded back to him: “I guess that means Scott Walker is going to be next.”
In Wisconsin (a state with a far more liberal tradition than Ohio), progressives are already gathering signatures to recall Governor Walker. And with the defeat of Issue 2, Republicans must be worried how their assault on working people has backfired.
In Maine, voters overruled Governor Paul LePage’s repeal of same-day voter registration. For nearly 40 years, Maine had been one of several states to allow voter registration on Election Day – and its turnout has been among the highest in the nation, with minimal cases of voter fraud. After Republicans won the legislature and the Governor’s Mansion last November, they promptly repealed the statute – so progressives put it on the ballot.
Protecting same-day voter registration was not only a huge victory for democracy, but it was also crucial as Maine progressives make a second next year to pass gay marriage. In a presidential election year, Maine should accomplish what it failed to do two years ago – but without same-day voter registration, thousands of young and transient people would be disenfranchised. By protecting same-day voter registration, Maine also took a stand against the right-wing’s nationwide efforts in the past year to make it harder to vote.
In Arizona, State Senator Russell Pearce -- who authored the anti-immigrant SB 1070 -- was recalled from office
. As Markos Moulitsas noted, this was “Republican-on-Republican violence” -- but the Republican who defeated him (Jerry Lewis) is more moderate. If anything, it was once again a message that right-wingers have overplayed their hands. And of course, the GOP faces a demographic ticking time bomb when it comes to immigration issues.
Mississippi results were a mixed bag. On the one hand, voters passed a very restrictive measure to require a photo ID when you vote – as part of the Republicans’ nationwide attacks on voting. But voters also rejected Measure 26, which would have redefined a fetus as a “person.” It’s more proof that the right-wing has overreached – even in ruby red states like Mississippi.
Besides defeating right-wing measures, last night also featured huge victories for the LGBT community. Cincinnati and Indianapolis both elected their first openly gay City Council members. In Iowa, Democrats retained control of the State Senate – which will help preserve its marriage equality law, by preventing the legislature from passing an anti-gay marriage amendment. And Holyoke, Massachusetts elected Alex Morse – a 22-year-old graduate of Brown University – to be the nation’s youngest openly gay mayor.