November 10, 2012

The Elections---An Unoriginal Account

This is not a particularly original post and it is not a full recap of the recent elections or an analysis. I do want to highlight some trends that emerged in the voting and in the movement over the past few weeks. Much of this comes from the the Oregon Working Families Party and the Center for American Progress Action Fund at See additional posts below for some other views on what is happening in Oregon.

Here we go.

It was clearly more difficult to vote if you're Latino or African American. In an AFL-CIO post-election poll of the general public voters were asked whether they experienced problems when trying to vote. While only 4 percent of whites reported problems, 10 percent of African Americans and 7 percent of Latinos reported problems. Moreover, 10 percent of Obama voters reported problems while only 2 percent of Romney voters reported problems, and that doesn't even include those for whom problems discouraged them from voting altogether. This makes the wins for progressives all the more remarkable.

For the first time in history, voters embraced marriage equality at the ballot box. In Maryland, Maine, and Washington state, voters approved marriage equality referenda. In Minnesota, an effort to ban same sex marriage was defeated. Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin is also the first openly gay person elected to the Senate; the person who won the House seat she vacated is also openly gay. Nationally, voters rejected the most anti-immigrant presidential ticket in history. In Maryland, voters approved a state-level version of the DREAM Act.

A record number of women were also voted into office. The Senate will have a record 20 women and the House will have at least 77, also a record.

In New Hampshire progressive champions Anne Kuster and Carol Shea Porter were elected to the House and New Hampshire will be the first state to send an all-female House and Senate delegation to Washington. Democrats also seized control of the New Hampshire House back from the Tea Party extremists who seized control of it in 2010.

In Maine Democrats wrested control of both the Maine House and Senate back from extreme right-wing Republicans who spent the past two years pursuing attacks on voting and unions, among other things.

In Minnesota Democrats won back control of both the Minnesota House and Senate. Republicans forced a government shutdown last year because they refused to raise taxes on the wealthy to close a budget gap, even though Minnesota's wealthy pay a lower tax rate than everyone else in the state. Minnesotans also rejected a constitutional amendment that would have instituted Voter ID in the state. It had been expected to pass.

In Michigan the state's voters repealed an "Emergency Manager" law that allowed the governor to seize control of cities from their democratically-elected representatives and put an unelected emergency manager with sweeping powers in complete control. The law is most often applied to communities with high minority populations. Voters also rejected a measure that would've crippled the state legislature by requiring a 2/3 majority to raise taxes.

In Colorado Democrats seized control of the Colorado State House and will install the first openly gay Speaker of the House. The current Republican Speaker blocked consideration of a civil unions bill even though it had the votes to pass.

In California voter approved a tax increase on households making over $250,000 in order to fund education and help reduce the state's perpetual budget deficit. They also voted to reform the state's corporate tax code in order to create billions in new revenue for clean energy. California voters also modified the state's "Three Strikes" law so that most non-violent or non-serious third offenses don't automatically result in a life sentence. A right wing effort to severely limit the political activities of labor unions failed.

The Democrats regained control of the Oregon House on Tuesday. They picked up a net gain of four seats, and will enter the 2013 session with a 34 - 26 majority. Three of the four new Democrats elected in these hotly contested races were Working Families Party (WFP) cross-nominees. The legislature will be different in other ways as well. Mike Schaufler, a "Blue Dog" Democrat from House District 48, will be gone, and Jeff Reardon (D/WFP) will be in his place. Given Mr. Schaufler's former position at the right flank of the Democratic caucus, one can argue that his departure will also shape the nature of how the now-majority party will govern in the 2013 session.

The Oregon Working Families Party nominated 47 candidates in the 2012 general election and 36 won their races. In the primary and the general elections, the WFP played a critical role in two races that will change the face of the Oregon House.

Patrick Sheehan's campaign decision to launch a red-baiting attack directly at the Working Families Party and WFP field organizers and mentioning Willamette Reds gave the Fagan/Sheehan race a crazy edge. Fagan won by 551 votes. WFP activists and donors made the difference here. WFP organizers knocked on 12,892 doors and talked to 6,307 voters about Fagan. In a race this close, every conversation on the doors is critical and WFP organizers were out there until 6:30 PM on election day fighting for every single vote.

Oregon House Republicans have selected Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, to lead them during the 2013 legislative session. "After regrouping from Tuesday's elections, House Republicans are united heading into the 2013 session," McLane said in a statement. "I'm excited and privileged to lead House Republicans into the next session. I'll work constructively with Democrats in the same spirit of bipartisanship that has delivered good results for Oregonians." Sound familiar? He took his rap from Peter Courtney and President Obama.

Looking at the national voting map, we are reminded of the split in the country between the solid south and the rest of the US. The remnants of the southern planter aristocracy and their financial and political backers nationally continue to hold power and wield a level of influence which is fatal to democracy. We come out of the elections with the Supreme Court poised to reconsider sections of the Voting Rights Act in light of "state's rights," that historic call to racism and xenophobia. "The south has changed," claimed these reactionary voices as they hypocritically point to the election of a Black president. When we look at voting patterns and results we see a much different story, however.

We also come out of the elections without KPOJ, one of Oregon's progressive radio stations. Clear Channel has decided to go to a sports radio format.

For a list of peace candidates who won and lost in the elections go here.

Sam Webb provided a social-democratic analysis of the elections here. An alternative radical analysis by Lynn Stuart Parramore can be found here.


Ann Montague said...

This must have come from the Working Families Party as there was no mention of the important victories for Marriage Equality in Maine, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland. WFP is so far back in the Dark Ages they still think these are dangerous "wedge issues"! Particularly offensive was the report on Minnesota which mentioned the rejection of the Voter ID Law and not the historic rejection of the state constitutional amendment which would have enshrined marriage as only between a man and a woman - the very first time that a popular vote has rejected such an amendment. And in Maine saying that they beat back the right wing's attacks on voting and unions, and added "among other things". They are back in the day when they cannot even say the words of that awful offending "wedge" group.

ethnicguy said...

Read the 4th paragraph again.

This did not come from WFP--it came from a variety of sources.

The article does not pretend to be a full recap of the elections.

Read the 4th paragraph again.

Ann Montague said...

I assumed that part came from the AFL. The state recap sounded very much like WFP. If it wasn't, it certainly represents their thinking.

ethnicguy said...

The article is a paste-together from several sources plus some of my own writing. Since the Oregon Working Families Party is an Oregon party they did not do a national analysis. As the article says, see the Center for American Progress Action Fund site for more info. The point of the article was to capture some trends--that's all. In Oregon the most exciting trend, and the one that most involved Willamette Reds, was the relative success of the WFP.