The post-election pundits claim the national election results were a clear call for “bipartisanship” and governing from the “center”. In looking at this concept more closely, one has to ask whether such conclusions are based on any measure of fact or are simply the fantasies of more delusional characters who think the Democrats have been in the play at all during the past six years in Washington.
Implicit in that analysis is that both parties were not only engaged in the process, but were motivated by their polar opposites. The fact is that since the Republicans took over both the Executive as well as the Legislative branches of government, the Democrats haven’t even been able to participate in the process of governing. No Democratic bills have gone to hearing; there were no oversight hearings in which Democrats have been represented proportionately on these panels. In other words, the right-wing extremists have tried to rule as a one-party country, a process finally ending with the clear and unequivocal rejection of such anti-democratic efforts that lie exclusively at the hands of this White House and the out-going Republican-controlled Congress.
Here in California, the similar claim is that the people of California also want bipartisanship and more centrist leadership. Yet, how does one reach that conclusion when Schwarzenegger virtually ran his re-election campaign as a Democrat? Running around the state with democrats, signing the global warming measure, the increase in the miminum wage measure and easing the cost of some prescription drug costs for seniors—-all measures he opposed until this year.
So what really gives here–and how should progressives be responding and defining ourselves in the weeks and months ahead?
It is quite clear to many of us who have been studying the landscape that progressive values are taking over as the primary focus on the national scene. Increasing the minimum wage, reducing the cost of student loans, developing strategies for energy independence, reducing the cost of prescription medications, holding government and corporations accountable are all progressive issues. We simply cannot let the media claim they are not; that they are somehow magically redefined as “centrist” issues as compared to our issues. These ARE our issues and they are progressive–they are designed to move our country forward, give the poor and middle-class a chance at a dignified life and the opportunity to live the Great American Dream. Are progressives also centrists? Perhaps, but progressives should not be submerged in manipulative efforts to denigrate that these important values are progressive values.
In California, progressive issues are what drove the electorate to Schwarzenegger. He and his Bush-led campaign staff knew it and highlighted these efforts as the center-piece of his re-election effort. Right-wing extremists like Tom McClintock and Tony Strickland were rejected and progressive leaders like John Garamendi and John Chiang were elected .
Debra Bowen, the only woman on the statewide ballot, won her race because she called for a re-commitment to the integrity of the voting process, more transparency and honesty in the election process. All progressive issues.
So let’s not let the media and whoever else steps in and try to marginalize progressives by saying this election was about “bipartisanship”—where there hasn’t been any opportunity for Democratic input into national policy for six years or “centrism” in California where the Governor ran on progressive issues to get re-elected. This election was about taking progressive values and turning them into the governing policies for our state and nation.
And of course, Proposition 85—yet another attempt to undermine a woman’s right-to-reproductive choice was beaten even more soundly than last year in California. Choice has and continues to be one of the fundamental underpinnings of progressive politics. It remains so in California and certainly made its voice heard in South Dakota and elsewhere last week. Progressive values are America’s and California’s values and we must continue to identify them as such. Bipartisanship and centrism may be warm and fuzzy sounding ideas—but it is progressive policy which is now driving our future–finally and proudly!