PROGRESSIVE VALUES ARE ALIVE AND WELL IN THE U.S.

ABSTRACT: Despite Republicans taking over control of the U.S. Senate, progressive values are alive and well in the U.S. In a recent poll of likely 2016 voters, over 70% supported the following policies:

  • Medicare should be allowed to negotiate drug prices
  • Student loans should have lower interest rates
  • Pre-kindergarten and Medicare should be available to all
  • Trade agreements should protect workers, jobs, and the environment
  • Corporations that ship jobs overseas shouldn’t get tax breaks
  • The government should establish a $400 billion / year infrastructure-building jobs program
  • Public higher education should be debt-free and Social Security benefits should be expanded.

The full set of poll questions and results are available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.boldprogressives.org/images/Big_Ideas-Polling_PDF-1.pdf.

There also were many positive results on progressive ballot measures in the 2014 election. The question is, how did conservative Republicans get elected when they don’t reflect the will of the people? The four main answers are:

  • Turnout in the November election was very low
  • Many Democrats didn’t campaign on the progressive issues that are popular with voters
  • Gerrymandered electoral districts and our primary election system produce very ideological candidates who are not representative of the larger population
  • Voter suppression efforts by Republicans have succeeded in reducing voting by groups that tend to favor Democrats.

FULL POST: Despite Republicans taking over control of the U.S. Senate and therefore both branches of Congress, progressive values are alive and well in the U.S. The progressive policies that President Obama put forward in his State of the Union speech are much closer to what Americans want from their government than the conservative policy proposals the Republicans are espousing.

In a recent poll of likely voters in the 2016 election, over 70% supported the following policies:

  • Medicare should be allowed to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical corporations
  • Student loans should have the same low interest rates as the big bank corporations get
  • Universal pre-kindergarten should be provided
  • Trade agreements should protect workers, jobs, and the environment
  • Corporations that ship jobs overseas shouldn’t get tax breaks
  • Medicare should be available to anyone who is willing to pay for it
  • Corporations should have to disclose spending on elections and lobbying
  • The government should establish a $400 billion / year infrastructure-building jobs program
  • Public higher education should be available to all debt-free
  • Social Security benefits should be expanded

There were other issues with over 70% support and many more with majority support. The full set of poll questions and results are available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.boldprogressives.org/images/Big_Ideas-Polling_PDF-1.pdf.

There also were many positive results on progressive ballot measures in the 2014 election, some of which I covered in my 11/25/14 post. Here are some more, thanks to Jim Hightower and his Hightower Lowdown newsletter (http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/).

In dozens of communities in at least five states (Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Wisconsin), voters supported overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and related decisions that have allowed unlimited sums of money to be spent on election campaigns. These voters called for a Constitutional amendment that would state that corporations do not have the same rights as human persons and that money is not equivalent to speech and therefore can be regulated in election campaigns. Voters in Wisconsin, who re-elected conservative, Republican Governor Walker, nonetheless, voted overwhelmingly in 12 communities for this Constitutional amendment (between 70% and 83% in favor). [1]

Voters statewide in Massachusetts; in Oakland, CA; and in two New Jersey cities voted overwhelmingly to require employers to provide paid sick time (between 59% and 86% in favor). In Alaska, Florida, and New Jersey voters approved conservation initiatives.

Local bans on fracking [2] passed in two counties in California; in Athens, Ohio; and in Denton, Texas. In Denton, the supporters of the ban were out-spent almost 30 to 1, but, nonetheless, won 59% of the votes; a resounding victory, especially because Texas is a major oil and gas state.

Republicans have accused President Obama of being political in his State of the Union speech because he proposed policies that are popular with the public but not with the conservative Republicans who control Congress. This seems like convoluted logic to me. Isn’t democratic, representative government supposed to put in place policies that are popular with the public? It sounds like the Congressional Republicans are admitting that they are out of step with what the public wants. The polling and results of ballot measures cited above confirm this apparent admission.

The question is, how did conservative Republicans get elected when they don’t reflect the will of the people? The four main answers are:

  • Turnout in the November election was very low (only 25% of those eligible to vote actually voted),
  • Many Democrats didn’t campaign on the progressive issues that are popular with voters,
  • Gerrymandered electoral districts, particularly for the US House, and our primary election system where turnout is even lower than in the final election (less than 15% of eligible voters) tend to produce very ideological candidates for the final election who are not representative of the larger population, and
  • Voter suppression efforts by Republicans have succeeded in reducing voting by groups, such as minorities, the young, and the elderly, that tend to favor Democrats.

If you know of other examples of progressive local ballot initiatives that were approved by voters or other examples of Congress not representing the will of the people, please share them in a comment on this post. Thanks!

[1]       Hightower, J., Dec. 2014, “As majorities tossed meek, dodgy Democrats, even more said “Yes” to populist ballot measures,” The Hightower Lowdown (http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/

[2]       Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing and is the process of drilling and injecting liquid made of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks and release natural gas or oil.

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