Good news—that’s what we need at the end of the year in which the media played up every egregious statement of Donald Trump, cheered by his audience and echoed by other GOP presidential candidates. For example, off-year elections have provided progressive victories in 2015 for people who want to move forward instead of backward into the Dark Ages:
Seattle passed “Democracy Vouchers”: To keep donations for city candidates from monopolized by the elite, the city will mail four $25 vouchers to each voter who can then sign and mail them to candidates or the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC). Candidates must agree to follow certain rules, including participation in three debates and acceptance of lower contribution and spending limits. Candidates may not receive contributions from any person or company with at least $250,000 in city contracts or $5,000 in lobbying expenses. Elected officials and their tops aides are barred from lobbying the city for three years after leaving their City Hall jobs. The experiment is funded by property taxes equal to about $9 per year for a $450,000 property.
Seattle also passed a $15 minimum wage and successfully defended its “gun violence tax” on sellers of firearms and ammunitions. The money goes toward violence prevention programs and research. A companion measure requires gun owners to report lost and stolen firearms to police. Gun dealers “lose” tens of thousands (if not more) of guns a year that end up in the hands of criminals.
The state of Ohio voted to ban political gerrymandering.
Maine strengthened publicly funded elections in the state. Only 13 states provide public campaign financing, and only five open this to legislative hopefuls. Maine’s new law eliminates corporate tax breaks, raises allocations to the Clean Election system from $4 million to $6 million in each two-year budget period, and increases penalties for campaign law violations with new disclosure provisions. The original law in Maine in 1996 provided matching funds which the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2011. The number of publicly-funded legislative candidates dropped from 81 percent in 2008 to 53 percent in 2014. Outside spending on Maine’s legislative races grew from $600,000 in 2008 to $3.6 million.
In its list of the seven most progressive victories of 2015, Think Progress included the achievements in Ohio and Maine as well as the following:
Workers are earning more: Nine states increased minimum wages by ballot measure and legislative victories, and Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities joined Seattle in increasing minimum wages. Last summer, President Obama announced a new overtime rule to help almost five million workers.
ACA is here to stay and the uninsured rate is at an all-time low: The Supreme Court upheld the healthcare subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, bringing quality, affordable health insurance to over 16 million people. The uninsured rate has dropped below ten percent for the first time in decades. A GOP Congress has been unable to kill a healthcare law that is growing more and more popular. Of the 8.3 million sign-ups, about 2.4 million are new to the marketplace—one-third more than last year—and the 2.1 million people under 35 are nearly double last year’s numbers. Enrollment is not finished, and 9.9 million may be a part of the formerly dreaded “Obamacare.”
More voters (41 percent) approve of the ACA than those who oppose it (39 percent). By now only 20 states have not expanded Medicaid, including all the states in the South except Arkansas. Alabama and Louisiana are considering joining the Obamacare bandwagon, and Tennessee’s GOP governor is trying to convince his legislature that they should have it in that state.
The world unites to fight climate change: 195 countries agreed on a climate deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions in its attempt to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is also designed to slow global warming, providing benefits of up to $93 billion in the next 15 years. His designation of six new national monuments permanently protects more than one million acres of public lands. By saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the president helps mitigate impacts on climate change on forests, wildlife, and waterways.
The high school graduation rate this year was the highest on record.
Despite GOP undermining the plan, the U.S. struck an historic Iran nuclear deal: Two and a half years of negotiations led to six world powers agreeing to put Iran’s nuclear program under international scrutiny and cut off the country’s pathways to a nuclear bomb.
The Supreme Court legalizing marriage equality.
Popularity is growing for progressive ideas. Polls show that conservatives are beginning to agree with progressives on money in politics, education, trade, inequality, Social Security, and Medicare as well as taking on big banks. In The Atlantic Peter Beinart wrote in “Why America Is Moving Left”:
- The Black Lives Matter movement has gained acceptance.
- Income inequality dominates economic discussion.
- LGBT rights are becoming mainstream.
- The blogger movement is growing with Daily Kos becoming a leading Democratic voice and Occupy which “injected economic inequality into the American political debate.”
- George W. Bush made conservatives look like idiots. (And now he has a great deal of help from the current crop of GOP presidential candidates!)Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is pushing Hillary Clinton left, and all three Democratic candidates are campaigning on the domestic threat of economic inequality.
Planned Parenthood achieved an amazing victory when the GOP didn’t include defunding the popular program in its omnibus spending bill. They claim that they will defund it next year, but their opposition only brings more support for the organization providing health care annually to 2.7 million women at 700 clinics.
After the release of the videos, two-thirds of U.S. voters opposed defunding the organization (removing funding for the health care that they give low-income people) and 52 percent of the voters in a poll approve of PP. After excessive media coverage of false videos regarding PP, it stayed more popular than the National Rifle Association, both political parties, Congress, and the Supreme Court.
The GOP is still a strong force because of its money, voter disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering in red states. At this time, these issues insulate GOP congressional members from the views of constituents and empower the right wing. The next election will show whether people continue to support people who vote against the interests of most people in the United States—or whether rigging voting computers changes individual votes.
As Peter Beinart wrote:
“There is a backlash against the liberalism of the Obama era. But it is louder than it is strong. Instead of turning right, the country as a whole is still moving to the left.”
You can follow his reasoning here.
For more good news, check out Slate’s report of positive news for every day in 2015—as they describe them “signs of progress in 2015, stories that made us feel grateful, optimistic, inspired, or awed.”
For just plain fun, check out these best viral videos!