As yesterday's historic presidential elections shows, the nation is focused on the promise of progressive change. Amidst the momentous federal election results, it's important to remember that many of the changes that our nation undergoes in the following four years will be won or lost in state houses - whether in collaboration with the President and Congress, or through the independent action of state legislatures themselves.
What we saw in this election was one of those rare, once-in a generation moments when the country speaks up as a whole and demands a new direction. This election confirmed the a majority of Americans want to move away from the conservative ideology of unfettered free markets and corporate excess that has ravaged this country for the past three decades, and towards a more equitable and just society. As a former State Senator, President Elect Obama understands better than most what a crucial role progressive state leaders can and must play in building such a society.
Among the key results for the states:
-Democratic gubernatorial victories in Washington, North Carolina, and Delaware, which bring the total number of Democratic governorships to 29;
-Democratic pick-ups of legislative chambers in Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, Delaware, and New York
-Expanded Democratic majorities in Oregon, Connecticut, Washington, and Michigan; as well as well the legislative implications of new Democratic two-chamber-plus-governor "trifectas" in New York, Wisconsin, and Delaware, which bring the total number of Democratic trifectas to 18.
Significant Republican victories include: winning an unprecedented trifecta in Tennessee, taking the Oklahoma Senate for the first time in history, winning the Montana Senate, and holding onto the Arizona House of Delegates.
On the ballot initiative front, despite high profile losses on several gay marriage proposals, progressives fared quite well on other social issues including nods to stem cell research in Michigan; protections for abortion in Colorado, South Dakota, and California; and preserving affirmative action in Colorado. Redoubling the mandate for progressive economic policy evidenced in Obama's victory, there were major defeats for a repeal of the progressive income tax in Massachussetts, a measure to deregulate the pay-day lending industry in Arizona and Ohio, and a union-busting "right to work" measure in Colorado.
Despite the abundance of optimism in the wake of Tuesday's results, we've got a lot of work to do now to make sure our leaders follow through on the promise of change that the electorate so resoundingly demanded this Tuesday. From health care to job creation, from progressive taxation to smart energy policy, we've got to get out there and make sure that these victories change policies on the issues that matter to the American people instead of just changing who sits in the Statehouse. The table is set to wipe away the legacy of decades of failed conservative ideology, but what becomes of that opportunity is up to us.
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