From Marijuana To Minimum Wage, Progressives Won Policy Fights On Election Night

Taken together, these types of measures could go a long way in reducing race and gender discrimination around the country.

Progressive policies like raising pay for workers, legalizing marijuana and offering universal preschool were winners Tuesday night, even as the results of the presidential election were anything but clear.

There were major disappointments for progressives and workers as well, such as Louisiana approving extreme anti-abortion restrictions and California voting against classifying ride-share workers as employees.

But there was a lot of good news for progressives, too. Thanks to voters, a number of states will enact new progressive policies. Taken together, these types of measures could go a long way in reducing race and gender discrimination around the country. They also help put pressure on federal policymakers, pushing what once were fringe liberal issues into the mainstream.

“From health care to minimum wage to paid family and medical leave, Americans voted for progress when given the chance to have a direct say on these issues at the ballot box,” said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project, a nonprofit focused on ballot measures, in an email statement. Earlier this year, the group helped pass measures expanding Medicaid in Missouri and Oklahoma.

Raising Pay

While Florida voters gave the win to President Donald Trump last night, they also overwhelmingly voted to pass a $15-an-hour minimum wage. It’s another sign of how popular raising wages is ― even in red states.

Raising the minimum wage is, of course, a universal policy that all workers benefit from. At the same time, it’s also a key way to reduce structural and systemic racial inequality. New research from two economists at Berkeley recently concluded that raising the minimum wage and expanding its reach back in 1966 led to the shrinking of the pay gap between Black and white workers.

Four states <a href="" role="link" class=" js-entry-link cet-internal-link" data-vars-item-name="legalized " data-vars-item-type="text" data-vars-unit-name="5fa2cbd8c5b62fc3f811e4b3" data-vars-unit-type="buzz_body" data-vars-target-content-id="" data-vars-target-content-type="buzz" data-vars-type="web_internal_link" data-vars-subunit-name="article_body" data-vars-subunit-type="component" data-vars-position-in-subunit="6">legalized </a>recreational marijuana Tuesday night: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota.
Four states legalized recreational marijuana Tuesday night: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota.
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Decriminalizing Drugs

Another universal policy that has an outsized impact on race discrimination: drug decriminalization.

Four states legalized recreational marijuana Tuesday night: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. (It’s something that could come in handy four years from now if the next election is as uncertain as this one, just saying.) And Mississippi signed off on a measure allowing medical marijuana use.

Statewide, Oregon decriminalized the possession of all drugs, becoming the first state to do so. The measure “marks the nation’s most significant development toward ending the 50-year war on drugs launched by President Richard Nixon,” writes Paul Blumenthal for HuffPost. Voters there also passed a measure that would specifically legalize psilocybin, aka magic mushrooms, allowing for its use under a therapist’s supervision.

Drug laws have had a disproportionate effect on minorities. Black Americans are arrested for marijuana offenses at a rate of 4-to-1 compared to whites. The Oregon measure also funds addiction treatment outside the criminal justice system.

Key Wins For Women’s Rights And Caregivers

Colorado progressives had a lot to celebrate. First the state flipped its Senate seat blue, with Democrat John Hickenlooper beating Republican Cory Garder. But at home, voters approved a raft of measures.

Colorado voters defeated a ban on abortions after 22 weeks. It’s the fourth time a referendum to restrict abortion has failed in the state.

Voters in the state also passed paid family leave, a policy that will provide paid time off to new parents, those dealing with a medical issue, or those caring for family members who are seriously ill. This makes Colorado the ninth state to have paid family leave, and the first to pass it via referendum.

Advocates were cheering the news as a sign of the policy’s growing popularity. And it couldn’t come at a more crucial time. The pandemic has created an urgent need for leave, as parents around the country struggle to care for children at home and manage their jobs, too.

“The unprecedented turnout has elevated voices long left out of the decisions over their lives including those of women of color and transgender women, while advancing measures critical to economic justice,” Fatima Goss Graves, the president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, told HuffPost in an email statement.

Speaking of policies that help parents and children: Colorado also approved a nicotine tax that will fund universal preschool statewide beginning in the 2023 school year.

And a crucial county in Oregon passed something called “preschool for all,” which is just what it sounds like ― a measure that would provide for universal preschool and contains provisions for crucial pay increases for pre-K teachers.

In Washington, state voters approved a first-of-its-kind measure requiring schools to teach sex education.

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