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7 Exciting, Inspiring -- and Overlooked -- Lessons From the "99 Percent" Election

By       Message Richard Eskow       (Page 2 of 3 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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(I should be a better person than this, but I take no small amount of satisfaction in knowing that Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers wasted lots and lots and lots of money this year.)

3. Social issues will help Democrats now.

Voters in Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational pot-smoking, while a medical-marijuana initiative won in Massachusetts. This may be the first time in history that getting high actually increased voter turnout. At this rate, politicians may soon find themselves courting that all-important Harold and Kumar demographic.

For years liberals have watched in frustration as conservatives coasted to victory on social issues, despite the harm that their economic policies caused conservative voters. That's the phenomenon Thomas Franks discussed in What's the Matter With Kansas? Anti-gay marriage initiatives were used to increase conservative turnout and wound John Kerry in 2004, for example.

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A few short years ago it was considered unthinkable for politicians to support civil unions for gay Americans. But this year's ballot initiatives on marriage equality and marijuana may have hurt Republicans, as all Americans -- among them young people of all political views, including young evangelicals -- are becoming markedly more liberal on social issues, as marriage equality initiatives won in Maine and Maryland.

In a victory for free choice, Florida's attempt to ban the use of public funds for abortion failed. At this rate some conservative will soon write a book about Democratic victories in the Deep South called What's the Matter With Mississippi?(Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?)

4. Harry Reid! Good ol' Harry Reid! He's got a mandate.

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This election was a great victory for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid strengthened that majority, despite being forced to defend more seats than the Republicans, and he did it with candidates who tended to be strongly progressive.

Warren won in Massachusetts, as did Sherrod Brown in Ohio. Tim Kaine pulled out a win in Virginia, in part by decisively rejecting the "centrist" agenda of the austerity-minded Simpson Bowles proposal. Meanwhile a candidate who did embrace the "centrist" agenda, Bob Kerrey, was defeated in Nebraska.

As Majority Leader, Harry Reid now has a clear mandate to fight for populist causes and resist the radical-right agenda of Congressional Republicans. Reid has made it clear that he opposes any cuts to Social Security benefits. With Senators like Tim Kaine, Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown by his side, he has the moral and political capital to defend them.

Reid also has a mandate to reform the Senate's procedural rules, which minority Republicans have repeatedly abused in order to thwart the will of the American majority. Newly-elected Maine Senator Angus King, who is a relatively conservative Independent, campaigned on a platform of filibuster reform. Harry Reid also has the political capital to reform the Senate.

Harry Reid. He's not loud or pushy, but last night he got it done. (Update -- When it comes to Social Security, Harry's already on it. Like we were saying: Good ol' Harry Reid.)

5. "Socialism" sells

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In today's political rhetoric, the word "socialism" is used to describe policies that were universally accepted by politicians across the political spectrum. Here's one example: The Republican Party platform of 1956 boasted that millions had been added to Social Security's rolls, and to the membership of America's unions, during Dwight D. Eisenhower's first term. Eisenhower built the Federal highway system. President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and proposed a universal guaranteed income for all Americans.

From Roosevelt to Reagan, the ideas now labeled as "socialist" were universal American values.

Those values won again last night. President Obama's victory in Ohio would not have been possible if he hadn't taken the most "socialistic" action of his presidency by taking over the auto companies in order to rescue them. He saved millions of jobs -- and turned a profit for the country, too.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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