This list was compiled and written by Rachel Kincaid, Yvonne Marquez and Heather Hogan.
Last night’s midterm election results were bleak, but before you abandon all hope and submit to the control of our latest round of Red State Overlords, take a second to remind yourself about some pretty great things that Americans voted in favor of yesterday. Here are nine of them.
1. The right to choose won
Colorado and North Dakota voted against “personhood initiatives,” which would have granted legal protection to fetuses, basically declaring that fertilized eggs are children. Reproductive rights groups breathed a huge sigh of relief, not only because the measures were struck down, but because they were struck down by an overwhelming majority (63% to 37% in Colorado, and 64% to 36% in North Dakota).
2. Weed won, too
Oregon voted yes on Measure 91, which made recreational weed use legal. If you’re 21, you’ll be able to buy marijuana starting in July. Alaska passed Ballot Measure 2, which will also legalize weed, but it’ll take longer for Alaskans to be able to purchase it; the Department of Commerce has nine months to set up a way to regulate marijuana sales. Citizens of Washington D.C. still can’t buy weed, but they voted to make it legal to possess two ounces of it, as long as you’re over 21.
Florida needed 60% of the vote to legalize medical marijuana, but they only captured 57%. Alas.
3. More people will make a livable wage soon
Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, states not generally known as fiscally progressive strongholds, all passed ballot measures to raise the minimum wage past its $7.25/hr federal baseline. In most states, the measures even passed by a significant margin (except for South Dakota, where it won by only 53%). The increase won’t come immediately — not until 2016 or 2017, depending on the state. But in Alaska and South Dakota, it’s more than just a one-time increase; the minimum wage is now linked to inflation, so it can continue to rise to keep up with the cost of living.
Individual cities and local elections, like those of San Francisco, Oakland and Milwaukee, also saw minimum wage increases get passed, which will also be phased in over time and which will hopefully make daily life and supporting a family more feasible for hourly wage workers.
4. Scott Brown lost to a woman — again
The former Republican senator from Massachusetts made gazillions of enemies back in 2012 with his misogynistic attacks on Elizabeth Warren, a thing that contributed to her complete shellacking of him in the election. So Brown moved to New Hampshire to try to unseat Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen. She smacked him down too, with plenty of help from Elizabeth Warren.
5. Gina Raimondo became the first female governor of Rhode Island
The state treasurer beat out both a Republican and Independent candidate after promising a complete overhaul of the state’s ailing pension program. Despite being a pretty heavily Democratic state, Rhode Island hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since the Clinton administration. An unapologetic social liberal, Raimondo has been an outspoken supporter of marriage equality and immigration reform. And she rode that wave of progressive thinking to victory.
6. A record number of women were elected
100 women will serve in the 114th Congress, the largest number ever, thanks in large part to a push from the Republican party to elect female representatives to combat the inevitable “Grand Old White Man Party” label they’ll be branded with during 2016 presidential election (due to the fact that it is true). Sadly, most of the women who were elected are vehemently opposed to abortion and marriage equality. But hey, maybe the United States won’t rank 86th in the world anymore when it comes to electing female politicians.
7. Texans struck down fracking for the first time
Denton became the first place in Texas to ban fracking inside the city limits, despite the huge amount of money the oil industry funneled into the campaign to vote down the ban. It turns out citizens of Denton are more concerned about protecting their natural resources and, you know, not causing earthquakes than they are with making rich white assholes even richer. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
8. Dallas did right by its LGBT citizens
Dallas voters added nondiscrimination protections for LGBT city employees to the City Charter with 77 percent supporting to add both “sexual orientation and “gender identity and expression.” Dallas already had similar nondiscrimination protections in their equal employment opportunity policy but wasn’t included in the City Charter.
9. California takes a stand against the War on Drugs and mass incarceration
Californians approved Proposition 47, which will “change six low-level, nonviolent offenses — including simple drug possession — from felonies to misdemeanors.” That means 20,000 people will be eligible for re-sentencing, and between 20,000 and 40,000 will avoid incarceration for drug-related misdemeanors. The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that the measure will save the state up to a billion dollars, all of which will be funneled to “schools, victim services, and mental health and drug addiction treatment.”
There is no doubt that I am for women being elected. However, I would rather have a man who is pro-marriage equality and pro-choice than a woman elected who is not for these things.
I agree. Like in my state of Illinois where our new Lt. Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, obvs a woman, is “pro-life” and pro “traditional marriage.” Stockholm syndrome, anyone?
Great article! It is so nice to focus on something other than the abysmal changes in the senate :) I’m an Oregonian and wanted to offer one slight correction, in July 2015 marijuana will be legal to possess, but not legal to purchase. Legal sales will not begin until 2016 after licenses are issued. Despite the lengthy process, it is still a not-terrible thing! Yay!
at least yall have a better law the washington lol poor washington, why couldn’t you just let homegrowing happen and lay off the taxes?
Massachusetts elected the first out lesbian as attorney general in the nation. Hooray Maura Healey!
That’s awesome! Yay for my home state :) Also great article – very informative & provided some much-needed cheering up
Also my dear friend and gay lady Joan McBride won her Washington State House of Representatives race. She’s gonna kick ass in Olympia!
Here’s something else that’s not terrible: no more political ads! Well, for two years, that is.
Also, Colorado and Oregon rejected GMO labeling initiatives!
How is that a good thing?
Only in America could large corporations winning the right to misinform their customers about the products they’re buying be considered a good thing.
Brianne, I’m not sure I comprehend why you wouldn’t want to know if GMOs are in the foods you eat and why that information is so threatening, but living in Oregon I can attest to the huge amounts of money poured into a misinformation campaign by the likes of Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland. This isn’t going away, it was defeated by around 1% and I’m happy to predict GMO labeling will win the next time.
Also, victory in Pennsylvania! We got rid of Tom Corbett after he gutted PA education, and replaced him with a pro-marriage equality, pro-choice governor!
Yes! I think this deserves more props. Ousting an incumbent first term Republican was a real win! I have (possibly too) high hopes for Wolf. Maybe my kids will be able to go to public school without me fearing for their safety?
Sadly, our Red State Overlords have 60 days to review and overturn DC’s vote on Initiative 71. Democracy in action!
well this is somewhat nice!
Thank you for spotlighting Rhode Island! I feel like Gina Raimondo’s win has been overshadowed by all of the Republican news. Besides being progressive, she’s incredibly intelligent.
We also elected Nellie Gorbea as Secretary of State, making her the first Hispanic candidate to win a statewide election in New England. :)
Whoo my whole family voted for that last one and against the War on Drugs!!! YES!!!
Unfortunately, the right to choose lost in Tennessee. But I’m glad to read all the good things that came out of the election. I live in NC, so we’re pretty depressed over here. :(
And MA employees now get 40 hours of sick time a year!
i had a dream about hobby lobby last night. this post made it all better. thank you.
DENTONNNNN I am so proud of my town! there are already several lawsuits from the oil companies to try and take down the ban, but i’m pulling for little d.
(we also voted to be able to buy liquor inside denton!) (also very exciting)
We can buy liquor inside of Denton now! I AM SO EXCITED.
Also, that was meant to be a question (I don’t live there anymore, but my parents do).
I guess I don’t know what to think when it comes to abortion. I know that pro-choice is the progressive viewpoint, but I confess that I’m not completely sure why. We advocate for the rights of others when they are not being recognized. Wouldn’t granting some kind of legal protection to fetuses be a good thing?
Not if it screws over the living, breathing woman the fetus is dependent upon for survival.
The arguments generally boil down to whether you care about the rights of the fetus (pro-life) or the rights of the pregnant person (pro-choice). There are a lot of nuances involving quality of life for both the fetus and the pregnant person, but that’s the gist of it. Pro-life advocates argue that fetuses should be considered people and therefore abortion is ending the life of a person. Pro-choice advocates argue that fetuses are dependent on the pregnant person and therefore do not have personhood, and the pregnant person should have the right whether or not to keep the fetus.
Note: I did my best to use gender-neutral language in this comment, as nonbinary/trans people (not just cis women) can also become pregnant!
Thanks for that. I suppose the part that throws me off is that we are debating whether or not a fetus is a person. As a progressive, I’m not in the habit of saying that anyone in the human race is anything less than a person, I believe in equal rights for all. That’s what gets me hung up on the abortion issue: I feel that the standard pro-choice progressive viewpoint is a bit inconsistent with all of our other values.
To the distinction you shared, yeah, a fetus is dependant on a pregnant person. Though I don’t see why dependancy would undermine someone’s value as a person. I don’t make that distinction when I look at dependant infants, toddlers, those who are physically or mentally impaired, or anything like that.
(My other comment to Dina is stuck ‘awaiting moderation’ – if I offended someone, I do apologize, I really didn’t intend to.)
That’s some of the issue; pro-choice advocates argue that, since the fetus is completely (for the most part) dependent on its carrier, it cannot be considered a person. Infants, toddlers, and so on can survive without the person who carried them.
The other issue is that abortion will happen, legally or not. Allowing legal abortions makes the procedure safer and more affordable (not completely) than it would be if it was illegal. People have abortions for many reasons and beginning to play the value game with whose abortion is okay and whose is not gets us into massive morality issues. Allowing each person to make the decision that’s best for them and their responsibilities (family, work, etc) is fairer to all.
But does anyone else find it a little distressing that we are drawing a line in the human race, separating the persons from the non-persons? Doesn’t that very prospect seem to scream against the core of what we hold to be true? It seems to me that for every other time in history that humans were treated as non-persons, we made a grave mistake.
But perhaps we got it right this time, and fetuses really aren’t persons. What are the characteristics of personhood? What is it about being solely dependent on someone that disqualifies all your rights as a person?
If fetuses aren’t persons, then abortion must be totally fine, in any and all cases. But if fetuses are persons, then it seems we should protect them, no?
Are there links in the comment? That can tag it for the queue.
I think it’s important to point out the biological reality that a embryo and fetus in the first trimester does not have a central nervous system equal to that of a infant or child. The loved ones of a brain dead person have long had the right to remove life support.
A pregnant woman should have the same right to end a pregnancy before the embryo/fetus devolves sentience/a advanced central nervous system.
Perhaps so, you might be right. Is sentience then the critical characteristic for personhood? Should we protect fetuses as persons with rights after sentience is achieved?
Let the person who’s pregnant decide.
There are a lot of grey areas in this world where science cannot throw a light; even if it could, it would not be able to clear all doubts for all people. So, then, what do you do? Let the person who’s most affected by it, who has to make the most sacrifices, and who has the ability to decide, make the decision. Let the freedom be theirs, let the responsibility be theirs. Let the right be theirs.
Regarding Sentience: If sentience is not required for personhood, then are plants people*? If plants are people, how can we slave them, groom them and eat them or their babies. If it is about our own survival as opposed to the plants’ then isn’t that absolutely selfish of us?
* I am not really sure plants don’t have sentience. just going by my minimal botanical knowledge here.
Also, my second comment in the internet (first was in TOR for a ASOIAF read post.) I am proud of myself. ;-)
Congrats on your second Internet comment ;-)
I’m not sure I fully understood your point about sentience and plants. Indeed, plants are not sentient. Are you saying that if sentience is not required for personhood, then that must mean that non-sentient things like plants must be persons? If so, I guess I don’t see how that follows.
There’s at least two problems with sentience being a marker for personhood: a) It seems to exclude beings that are obviously persons, such as those in temporary comas or under anesthesia; b) It seems to entail that beings such as insects would also be persons. I am for animal rights, but it’s clear to me that hitting a squirrel with your car is not nearly as problematic as hitting a child.
About the idea of “grey areas”, where people have doubts. If we are uncertain about whether a fetus is a person with rights, wouldn’t our uncertainty be good reason to err on the side of caution, protecting the life of the fetus since there’s a good chance it may be a person? I am against capital punishment, mainly because I think the justice system isn’t perfect and I can’t imagine the thought of executing someone who later turned out to be innocent. But what if someone was accused of a crime, and though the evidence was skimpy and there was a 50% chance they got the wrong person, he was sentenced to death anyway? Would we say “Well, we are not going to be able to clear all doubts for everyone. And the family of the victim seem pretty convinced of guilt.” If that is unacceptable, how much more so would it be to abort a fetus that may in fact be a person whose innocence is certain, via a brutal abortion procedure?
As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t the first time in history that we’ve tried to deny personhood to a class of humans. So far, we’ve had a 100% failure rate: slavery, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, patriarchal domination of women… how can we be so sure we are doing the right thing this time? Why should I even accept the premise that not all humans are persons? At best, there is currently much uncertainty over the personhood of fetuses. Until we can become more certain, it would seem like gross negligence to kill a being if there was a good chance it was in fact a person with rights.
Thank you :)
I think it is better to not explain the plant thing because it’d probably meander into a lot of other stuff and this comment of mine would never end.
Instead, let me say I get your point about erring on the side of caution.
My point is this: A fetus is a potential for a person. It is not a person with the ability to think, act or decide. Even newborns can act, make a conscious decision, but fetuses cannot (I mean the ones that are in the really early stages of development). On the other hand, the mother is a leaving breathing person. To give more weight to the potential’s right to life over that of the happiness and future of a person who is already sentient doesn’t seem right to me. [Kinda but perhaps not exactly like thinking it is more problematic to hit a child rather than a squirrel] Esp. since I don’t think the decision to abort is ever taken lightly. It has a lot of emotional and physical costs, and considering that and the fact that fetuses in their early stage of development may not really be sentient (even though they will be sentient at some point), I believe the person carrying the fetus should be allowed to make that decision and not a lot of other folks who have no idea what that person is facing.
I do think it’d be incorrect to equate slavery, patriarchy and racism with not giving a fetus the right of a person for the same reason that I think equating the person carrying the fetus and the fetus would be incorrect. The first talks about people in front of us, people who feel, think, act, love and feel pain. The fetus on the other hand doesn’t, not in its early stages of development.
Since it clashes with your point about erring on the side of caution without giving a complete rebuttal, and since, your point doesn’t convince me either, perhaps we should leave it at that? You do what you think is right, and I do what works for me*, and if I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know if I can? :)
Nice talking to you.
I think it might be helpful to think about not whether a fetus is a person, but whether the law can require a person to sacrifice their health and body for the life of another. Hosting a baby you don’t want to be carrying is a huge demand to put on a person, and should be someone’s own medical and spiritual decision. Would a father be required by law to give a kidney to his his dying child? Never. No matter how strongly we might think that he should, the law would always allow a person to make their own choices about their health before giving their lifeblood to sustain others . . . Except when it comes to pregnancy. Even people who think abortion is morally wrong (like people who would say that the father not giving his kidney is wrong) should see that it is a personal decision and that prohibiting it is draconian and creepy.
Thanks a ton for writing, this is really making me think. You should know that my mind is not yet made up. I’m very much open to my point of view changing on this issue – it’s changed a lot recently already. If I’m presented with sound arguments, why shouldn’t I change my point of view, right? I try my best to be open minded.
You made a distinction between fetuses in early stages of development, and those in later stages. Do you think fetuses become persons at some stage before birth?
Slavery, racism, and the list of other terrible things are all examples of times when people thought that others who were different from them did not count as persons because they did not possess a specific characteristic of some kind. In all examples so far, the characteristic for which the distinction was made was simply not morally relevant. Despite the track record, we’ve tried again to identify the non-person humans. You seem quite sure that fetuses don’t count as persons, at least in early stages, since they don’t feel, think, act, love, and feel pain. Are these the necessary criteria of persons? Does one need to have all of these, or just some? Do you think these criteria are morally relevant for personhood?
Whoops! This reply is to Rachel. Sorry Aparna, I think I put your reply under Rachel’s comment. Sorry everyone for the confusion!
Rachel:First of all, I love the stormtrooper mask :-D
You make a really good point. I thought a lot about it, and I have something for you to consider. But first, a bit of a prelude. I think the abortion debate boils down to the following set of tests, in the order given:
#1: Is the fetus a living member of the human species?
#2: If so, is the fetus a valuable human? (ie. a person with a right to life)
#3: And if so, are there any reasons for which we can kill a fetus that is a full-fledged person with a right to life?
If a fetus fails the first test, abortion is easy to justify. There can be nothing wrong with aborting something that is not yet a human being. abortion would be on par with contraception if this were the case. Many arguments out there try to show that the fetus fails test #1 (“it’s just a clump of cells”, “no one knows when life begins”, et al.) I believe they all fail since the science of embryology is pretty clear on this aspect.
If a fetus fails the second test, again, abortion is easy to justify. The rights of real persons clearly trump any rights or interests of potential persons. But this test makes my stomach turn – I have major problems with the idea that not all humans count as persons. Nevertheless, it may be true, and for a fetus to fail this test we have to identify what characteristic makes a human being a valuable one.
Your argument seems to fit with test #3. Even if a fetus is a person, there may be valid reasons for it to be permissible to kill a person who has a right to life. Note that we only need test #3 if the fetus passes the first two steps. If a fetus is not a valuable human being, arguments for test #3 are unnecessary – abortion is of little moral concern if the thing that dies is not a valuable human person. However, if we need to reach for the arguments of test #3, we need to be aware that we are talking about a valuable human being with a right to life equal to our own.
Your example is really good, because it acknowledges just that: A father is not obligated to donate a kidney to save the life of his son. The question is: is this example parallel to abortion? I don’t think so, (at least for elective abortion), for a few reasons:
Firstly, abortion is the active killing of the fetus, often brutally so. The father may refuse to donate a kidney, but he may not take a knife to his son’s throat. Secondly, the fetus finds itself on the chopping block not because of any action of its own, rather its parents are responsible for it being in the precarious place it is. This is significant, since the party that endangers another has obligations. In the father/son example, the father’s obligations would change if it were found that he was directly and wholly responsible for poisoning his son’s kidneys in the first place. Thirdly, organ donation is a life-saving but otherwise unnatural process. Pregnancy is not organ donation, the organs are doing what they were intended to do. From intercourse, to conception, to implantation, and each stage of fetal development, it’s all going the way it should. It is the abortion procedure that puts an abrupt and unnatural end to all of that. Fourthly, we do have obligations to sustain our own offspring. Organ donation is beyond that obligation, but pregnancy is precisely the way one sustains offspring at that stage of development.
Thus, I think the kidney donation is not a good parallel to most situations where abortion is performed, the common reasons for elective abortion.
On a side note, isn’t it odd that we are condemn smoking, heavy drinking, and drug use while pregnant due to the harmful effects these have on the fetus, but we affirm the right to have the fetus killed?
Hey Judy! This reply is coming about 7 months and 2 weeks after your reply, so, I am not sure if you would even look at it; but, I thought I may as well reply in case you do. ;-)
First off, I think I should have never commented on this piece, because the discussion is way out of my culture, so I apologise for that. Having commented, I will explain both the conflict I experience, and my rationale for supporting choice.
I am a resident Indian and as such, have a very complicated relationship with abortion–after all, i have been exposed to the news and stories of female foeticide* and sex-selection since childhood. So… My knee-jerk reaction to abortion is to think it is bad.
However, I have also read up on how it is looked at in the West, (where dowry and a need to ensure chastity are not like a 5-tonne weight hanging on a father’s neck), and from what I understand, the reasons for abortion are different there. From that, and also because of the following reasons, I support choice (though, as I said earlier, I perhaps have no right to weigh in on the argument).
a. I don’t think anyone (who is not weighed down by the economic problems of having a girl child) comes to the decision lightly or without thought. and I think we should respect the fact that a woman has enough reason within her to decide on the subject.
b. Statistics show that abortion happens anyways; and making it legal will ensure that more folks (like the person who is getting the abortion) don’t get killed in the process. Apparently, stats also show that more abortions happen in countries where abortions are illegal. I don’t know what is with that. may be it also ties to non-usage of contraceptives?)
Also, coming back to India, people force abortion on women not just for the reason of girl-child-prevention, but also when a girl becomes pregnant before marriage. If they can do that with impunity, I don’t see why folks should protest just when girls/women are making the decision.
*You’d think that those parents who do that are monsters. But, really, they are mostly (though not always**) poor folks who cannot afford the economic and social cost of having a girl child. There is dowry which breaks a father’s back, the threat of social ostracisation if a girl becomes pregnant before marriage, the fact that a rape is blamed on the girl and social ostracisation happens in that case too, (and a lot of other stuff) and well, this is the result. It needs to change, but for that, the cultural fabric of the country needs to change.
**There are rich folks who do it, and still, my thought remains the same. I don’t think abortion rates can be looked at in silos. It is a direct result of many other factors affecting girls and their families.
I have may have digressed or bored you a bit talking about India. If so, I apologise.
Go Seattle and San Fransisco! $15 min wage!
I really think a living wage is a basic human necessity, much like healthcare… Because, you know, people need to eat and stay warm and stay healthy.
And yes I know Seattle was earlier this year, but I still wanted to give a shoutout to my city. :)
Also – Washington state passed 594 (increased background checks for purchasing firearms):
hooray Washington state! hopefully more will follow your lead… someday…
No No Nononono! I am not excited about number 6. Any GOP “woman” might as well be a Grand Old White Man indeed. People are so stupid! Prolly the only reason those wenches even won is cuz people actually fell for the same crap they almost fell for in 2008 with Palin. That’s their new tactic.One of a few. But trust and believe, you can put lipstick, sombrero, dashiki or whatever on a pig but a pig is a pig is a PIG people.