It’s a dark morning for diversity and tolerance in America, but liberals can savor a few local gains.
At the state and metropolitan level, progressive initiatives like legal marijuana, the minimum wage, and better transit systems passed nearly everywhere they appeared.
California, Massachusetts, and Nevada legalized recreational marijuana, with Massachusetts becoming the first East Coast state to do so. Maine’s marijuana vote is deadlocked at 50–50 but pro has a slight edge. Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota voted to allow medical marijuana. The only pot ballot measure that failed was in Arizona, where recreational marijuana fell 52–48. Arizona already allows doctors to prescribe the drug.
Arizona, though, joined Maine, Washington, and Colorado in raising the minimum wage. Arizona’s initiative, which also includes a paid sick leave guarantee, gained steam statewide after the GOP-controlled Legislature made it clear it would allow no progressive laws on wage or paid sick leave at the city or county level. It was a populist rebuke to a conservative statehouse. An odious motion to lower the minimum wage for minors failed in South Dakota.
Gun control initiatives passed in California, Nevada and Washington, but failed in Maine. Solar power survived a deceptively worded ballot amendment in Florida, a utility-backed ploy that may have been the most expensive plebiscite in the state’s history. Colorado became the sixth state to legalize assisted suicide. South Dakota and Missouri adopted campaign finance laws.
Maine becomes the first U.S. state to adopt ranked-choice voting in state and federal elections, which will make it easier to support third-party candidates by eliminating the third-party spoiler effect that was on display in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania last night. I wrote more about that system here.
In California, voters lifted restrictions on bilingual education, made it easier for felons to get parole, and reaffirmed a legislative ban on plastic bags. The plastics industry had spent heavily to place a referendum on the ballot.
At least two reprehensible right-wing political leaders were swept out of office: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who kept immigrants in and around Phoenix living in fear for more than two decades, lost by 10 points. While a recount is surely on the way, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, the Republican who led the GOP’s transphobic bathroom-law wing, appears to have lost to challenger Roy Cooper, a Democrat, by 5,000 votes.
At the local level, Americans threw their weight behind investments in shared infrastructure, especially transit projects. Los Angeles passed a mammoth, 40-year, half-cent sales tax that will pour $120 billion into the construction of light rail and other transportation improvements. The Bay Area voted to raise $3.5 billion in bonds to fund Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART. Seattle passed a 25-year, half-cent sales tax to fund 62 new miles of light rail, as well as bus rapid transit and commuter rail. Raleigh and Durham will fund a connecting commuter rail line; Atlanta will fund new light rail construction.
On the other hand, Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States.