US elections: a great night for the left all round

Sports journalist Dave Zirin put it like this; “Last night’s election results revealed to masses of people that this is a fundamentally different country than they perceive from the alternative reality constructed by Rupert Murdoch and Rush Limbaugh. It’s defined less by the narrow hatreds of the powerful than by a younger generation that’s more diverse, more open, more courageous, and frankly more interesting than those at the levers of power.”

The fact is there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful about the results last night.


The death of the Tea Party

The election did not just return Obama to the White House but demonstrated over and again that the US electorate is not nearly as socially backward as Fox News and their cohorts would have you believe. Indeed Romney only managed to poll so well in the end by consistently framing himself as a centrist and moderate Republican, quite different from the clear right candidate he appeared to be during the primaries.

The fact is the Tea Party, that had so many on the left in a spin both sides of the pond, has been a toxic liability for the Republicans and their candidates consistently under perform as well as bringing the entire party into disrepute. Having dragged Romney’s campaign into controversies over “legitimate rape” and abortion we saw a swing towards people voting Democrat on social issues like these, drugs and gay marriage when Romney’s camp had hoped to keep their attention firmly fixed on a failing economy.

The likes of Mourdock, Allen West and Todd Akin were spanked in races they could have won comfortably because their brand of hysterical bile mobilises liberals to vote against them and demobilises moderate Republicans who might have been able to swallow the political positions but not the poisonous culture that these candidates cultivate. Sadly, Michele Bachmann scraped home in her congressional race in Minnesota, but she managed to turn an ultra-safe seat into a skin of your teeth marginal.

The Tea Party has had its day as more and more Republicans realise they are a straight up liability. This is fantastic news.


State referendums reveal a country with a conscience

There was good news for weed smoking homosexuals coming up to their third criminal offense as various states passed progressive legislation or repealed reactionary laws.

Voters took against the 3-strikes rule in California, made marijuana legal (generally not just medically) in Colorado and Washington (as well as Massachusetts legalising medical uses), in Florida they voted down a proposition that would have banned the use of public funds for abortion, while a union backed referendum in Michigan to repeal an “emergency manager” law has successfully taken the law off the statutes (despite losing 52% to 48%, don’t ask me to explain) and Maine, Maryland and Washington all passed same sex marriage proposals.

It’s not 100% good news of course, but overwhelming these referenda have gone pretty well although I have no comment on whether American voters were right to veto a new bridge to Canada.


Good news for good candidates

Yesterday I wrote about two leftist independents running for the Senate Bernie Saunders and Angus King – they both won! As did the Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin who are not just on the side of the angels they had tough fights to get into the Senate.

As it happens it also means that we have record numbers of women in the Senate (19 of 100) and it shows that people did not simply vote against the Republicans in some areas they actually had something well worth voting for.

With more than 10,000 votes (over 27%) in District 43 of Washington State Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant has achieved something quite extraordinary against leader of the House Frank Chopp (right) whose slogan “we are all in this together” may have some resonance over here.

This is no mean feat and has boosted the local organisation’s chances in future local elections. They are definitely worth watching in future and show that strong local campaigning (and in this case no Presidential candidate) can still make an impact.

Congratulations must go to former Harlem Globe Trotter Fred Smith, who has won Arkansas district 50 for the Greens with 100% of the vote.

It always helps if your opponent is disqualified for election fraud but it’s a great opportunity for the Greens if they can use the platform Smith now has to nail the seat for the next election. Smith is not just lucky here, he did hold this seat for the Democrats a few years back so hopefully he knows the ropes well enough to make the most of this moment in the sun.

The Greens were also able to win seats where their opponents had not been disqualified in Maine where two Portland city councils were re-elected and were joined by another Green elected to the school board. While in one of New York’s congressional races (the 24th district) Ursula Rozum won over 8% of the vote for the Greens, or over 21,000 votes. That’s a very strong result.

These results are more important than Jill Stein‘s 0.32%, which fell well short of the party’s vote in 2000 of 2.74%, and it gives the party the opportunity to lay down roots in Arkansas. Frankly at this election most of the victories for the left were either at the hands of the Democrats or the unions, but Saunders, King and Sawant all show that there is life outside of the two party system and that left election campaigns can be more than meaningless symbolic acts.

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