Angry voters sent a clear message on Tuesday: Much, much more must be done to put America back to work. But voters rejected right-wing and Tea Party candidates who argued that government should do nothing to improve the economy or protect working families during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Voters support efforts to build an economic recovery that works for everyone.
Voters abandoned most of the U.S. Senate candidates backed by the Tea Party, including Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, Joe Miller, and Christine O'Donnell. And they thwarted millionaire candidates who sought to catch a Tea Party wave -- such as Linda McMahon, John Raese, Carly Fiorina and Dino Rossi.
But let's be clear: The loss of the U.S. House of Representatives is a real setback for working families. Washington Republicans have done nothing since the last election to curtail the Bush recession and bring down unemployment. They opposed every effort to address the economic wreckage that resulted from their failed policies in the Bush years. They voted against the Recovery Act that prevented a second Great Depression and a jobs bill that provided emergency funding to the states for public safety, health care and education programs. Now, Republicans must demonstrate that their priority is working families, rather than corporate interests and the very rich. Voters have not embraced the radical plans of Republican leaders in the Congress to cut taxes for millionaires, privatize Social Security and slash Medicare funding.
It is worth noting that in the past century, Republicans gained the most seats in off-year elections following the passage of remarkable legislative achievements by Democratic Congresses: the GOP gained more than 80 seats in 1938 after the passage of the Social Security Act and more than sixty seats in 1966 after the passage of Medicare and the Civil Rights Act. Over the years, voters recognized the enduring value of these historic bills. We have no doubt that in coming years, the passage of health care and Wall Street reform will be regarded as similar, far-reaching victories for all Americans.
On the state level, candidates who support the funding of public services won races for governor in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island. We are optimistic about the three gubernatorial races that are now too close to call.
Voters also produced important victories in state ballot initiatives, including the passage of propositions in California to end the destructive requirement of a two-thirds vote to pass the state's budget. In Colorado, voters rejected the 'Bad 3' ballot initiatives, signaling their support for funding the state's vital public services.
Voters in Massachusetts and Washington also voted to reject proposals that would have restricted the ability of government to pay for the services families rely upon during these tough economic times. These votes signify that Tuesday's elections were not a blanket rejection of government and revenue-enhancing measures at the ballot box.
AFSCME is proud to stand as a champion of working men and women against an onslaught of money from shady organizations that seek to harm them. We mobilized tens of thousands of volunteers and sent more than 300 staff to key battleground states. Our Councils and affiliates mounted aggressive operations throughout the country. Through phone, mail and person-to-person contact, we reached more than one million of our members to get out the vote.
Progress is a process. The hard work does not end on Election Day. State governments have cut almost a trillion dollars in spending in the past three years and services have been cut to the bone. We will mobilize to defend the programs that help middle class families as well as the working poor and disadvantaged families. We intend to continue our efforts to support working Americans in the days and months ahead, confident in our cause and committed to doing what is necessary to ensure that all of our nation's families have the ability to realize the American Dream.