Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ballot Initiatives for the Emerging Technoprogressive Mainstream

It is widely known that movement conservatives have long used targeted ballot initiatives to divide and demoralize American majorities with wedge issues while energizing their most extreme base voters in election after election to the cost of us all. Anti-gay hate initiatives represent only the most recent examples of such tactics. According to the Center for American Progress, progressives are finally discovering their own version of the politics of the ballot initiative.

Of course, it has long been understood that conservative politics in general benefit from depressed voter turnout, while progressive politics depend on wider participation. And so, progressive ballot initiatives will tend to be about uniting and energizing voters rather than debasing public discourse and hence discouraging all but rightwing zealots from participation in the very democratic processes they despise, will tend to be about protecting and celebrating the diversity of our citizens rather than whomping up fear and hatred against difference, will tend to focus on hope rather than resentment and terror.

The Center for American Progress notes four key ballot initiatives that are likely to benefit democrats and progressives in upcoming elections:

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASES... 83 percent of Americans favor increasing the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour (where it's been stuck since 1997) to $7.15 an hour. Forty-nine percent of Americans say they "strongly support" such an increase; the issue "receives widespread support from both Republicans and Democrats, wealthy and poor." The right wing knows this, and in states like Arkansas and Michigan, it has been able to avoid ballot showdowns by passing increases through the standard legislative process. But in states such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Ohio, voters will have the opportunity to join 18 states (along with the District of Columbia) who have raised their minimum wage above the federal level[.]

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT: In November, Californians will... vote for the Clean Alternative Energy Initiative, a ballot measure that would "impose a wellhead tax on oil companies operating in California and divert the money" to finance programs to reduce California's oil dependence by 25 percent over 10 years... Californian will have the opportunity to become the first state to commit to beating the oil addiction. The initiative will be fighting against the deep pockets of the highly profitable Big Oil companies. Three oil companies in particular have "led the way" in funding opposition to the initiative... Chevron... Occidental Petroleum, and Aera Energy LLP, "a partnership jointly owned by oil giants Exxon Mobil and Shell"... Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been trying to "tout his environmental credentials"... has opposed the measure[.]

STEM CELL RESEARCH: In Missouri, a ballot initiative will allow voters to decide whether to allow stem cell research and stem cell therapies permitted by federal law. The initiative would also create oversight mechanisms to ensure the research proceeds ethically and outlaws human cloning. If stem cell research yields effective treatments, millions of Missourians would stand to benefit from stem cell therapies, including those with spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), and diabetes. According to a recent survey conducted by a conservative pollster, 56 percent of Missourians approve of stem cell research, while only 24 percent disapprove, and 71 percent approve of therapeutic cloning...

OVERTURNING ABORTION BANS: Voters in South Dakota will be given the opportunity to overturn the "strictest abortion ban in the nation." In March, Gov. Mike Rounds (R) signed legislation to ban the procedure, even in cases of rape or incest. The law, which was slated to take effect on July 1, targets doctors in South Dakota by making it a felony for them to perform any abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman. South Dakota Campaign for healthy families filed a petition on May 30 to put the decision to the voters with more than 37,000 signatures when they only needed 16,728. Once the signatures are validates, the abortion ban will be suspended pending the outcome of the November election. After the law was signed, a survey by state polling firm Robinson & Muenster reported 57 percent were opposed to the law, while 35 percent supported it.

I think it bears mentioning that not only will all four of these ballot initiatives produce progressive outcomes, mobilize progressive voters, all the while uniting citizens of all parties to progressive endeavors, but three out of four of these mainstream progressive measures are also technoprogressive: Two of them champion regulated scientific research and development in the service of shared human goals and a third would secure access to the consensual use of available technologies to end unwanted pregnancies, to maintain health as citizens themselves see fit, and hence to shape their own bodily fortunes.

This is still more evidence of the conspicuous confluence of people powered democratic politics in America and the emerging technoprogressive mainstream.

Originally published in Amor Mundi on June 15, 2006.


Tom FitzGerald said...

As some of the technologies discussed hereabouts mainstream, I expect technoprogressivism to obsolesce itself, having become merely mainstream progressivism. Should be fun.

Dale Carrico said...

I agree with you.