Title: United States: It Ain't Necessarily So Credit: Craig Young Comment Friday 7th November 2014 - 12:52pm1415317920 Article: 15970 Rights
Predictably, the New Zealand Christian Right is crowing about the midterm US Congressional Republican claims in its elections. If I were Family First and Right to Life, I wouldn't be quite so pleased, given that election night was also far from a parallel endorsement of social conservatism. While one might have wondered whether the United States' sudden social liberal conversion was limited predominantly to marriage equality and inclusive adoption reform, the events of midterm Congressional election night yielded mixed results. Due to Obama's bungled Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) rollout, the Ebola and ISIS crises, there has been some regrettable backlash against the incumbent US president and his affiliated party. But, it should be noted, not against social liberalism or economic equality. I never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but binding referenda appear to have turned a corner and become a predominantly progressive force in the United States during the midterm Congressional elections. As BBC News noted, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota all adopted minimum wage increase legislation, Washington state now has compulsory gun background checks at firearm shows, Massachusetts passed a paid sick leave programme through another referendum, and Californians backed sentence reductions for nonviolent criminals to ease prison congestion problems. Nor were gains restricted to those related to economic equality and gun control- Colorado and North Dakota both voted down radical prohibitionist anti-abortion 'personhood' proposed legislation in two referenda, while Alaska, Oregon and Washington DC all decriminalised recreational use of cannabis, and Florida narrowly missed doing so due to a required referendum supermajority of sixty percent. As for LGBT objectives, Dallas passed a progressive antidiscrimination civic ordinance that includes all colours of the LGBT rainbow. At the same time, the bipartisan Congressional Republican majority may mean a dream deferred for the proposed US federal antidiscrimination Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Conservative gains were limited on the night. Typically, the Deep South's Tennessee passed far-ranging restrictions on abortion access, while fracking bans experienced mixed success in California and Texas. However, despite the gloom within the Democrat Party at present, the more radical fringes of the Christian Right's anti-abortion movement weren't exactly rejoicing either, given the rejection of anti-abortion 'personhood' referenda in Colorado and North Dakota, playing right into the pro-choice feminist argument that the ultimate objective of the anti-abortion movement is total prohibition of women and the return of the spectre of backstreet illegal abortions and death for impoverished women who cannot support additional children at a time of global economic crisis and national recession. The above is inevitably going to sharpen internal centre-right debates about the tactical wisdom of supporting binding citizens referenda, given that several of the aforementioned referendum successes, such as minimum wage laws in Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, Massachusetts paid sick leave programme and California's nonviolent criminal release referendum, were all centre-left initiatives. Apart from Tennessee and the return of a Republican bicameral Congressional majority, the Christian Right suffered setbacks during the midterms due to its own tactical and strategic stupidity over the Colorado and North Dakota anti-abortion 'personhood' referenda. Meanwhile, as the Alaska, Oregon and Washington DC instances show, social opinions are also changing rapidly when it comes to the morality and legal status of recreational cannabis use. I suspect the result will be growing dissent against tactically challenged religious conservative opportunists and populists who see the use of binding referenda as a panacea against liberal social change, from religious social conservative dissenters who don't and 'anti-drug' groups. Meanwhile, thirty-three US states now have access to marriage equality and there were no new referenda against marriage equality at the midterm elections. Moreover, Dallas approved an inclusive civic LGBT antidiscrimination ordinance that is a landmark, given that the Texan capital tends to have traditionally be seen as a hotbed for social conservatism. As for the social reform and drug policy issues raised by the above, I still think the best place for them is the parliamentary debating chamber and select committee submission and hearing processes. Deliberative democracy is always preferable to monied PR lobbyist run populist campaigns that masquerade as a perverted version of "citizens' initiatives and referenda. Despite a large CIR voter outcome against asset sales, the Key administration won a third term of office in September and is now talking about state house asset sales. It would appear that as far as things one's likely to read on Bob McCoskrie's Family First website, as George Gershwin wittily said about the Good Book, it ain't necessarily so. Recommended: Anthony Zurcher: "Ballot initiatives: Liberalism Up, Democrats Down: BBC News: 05.11.2014: Ben Johnson: "One in three anti-abortion ballot initiatives lose and win and lose nationwide" Lifesite News: 05.11.2014: Raf Sanchez: "Washington DC makes marijuana legal: Here's what you can and can't do" Daily Telegraph: 05.11.2014: Chris McGreal: "Oregon and Alaska voters approve legalise recreational marijuana laws" Guardian: 05.11.2014: Craig Young - 7th November 2014    
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