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Voters approved progressive ballot measures—including a $15 minimum wage in Florida—proving that Americans hunger for change. (Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

From coast to coast, voters approved progressive ballot measures—even in "red" states. (Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Voters Delivered a Progressive Mandate. Now Joe Biden Must Deliver

"Embracing humanity and dignity is both a sound moral choice and a winning electoral strategy."

Robert Reich


Voters have given Joe Biden and Congress a progressive mandate to enact real change.

"The writing is on the wall. Voters passed progressive ballot initiatives, even in red states; they reelected progressive candidates who embraced bold policies; and they expressed support for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and an end to systemic racism."

Americans are hungry for change, as evidenced by what happened on Election Day.

Voters handily supported progressive ballot initiatives across the country. 

In Florida, an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour passed with 61% support, even though the state went for Trump. 

And that wasn't the only successful progressive ballot initiative to succeed in a redder state: Both Montana and South Dakota voted to legalize recreational marijuana, along with the bluer states of New Jersey and Arizona. Arizona continued its progressive streak by approving a tax increase on the wealthy to fund its education system, as did Colorado. Colorado also voted to fund a public paid family leave program.

And measures tackling our brutal systems of mass incarceration and policing prevailed in multiple states: California restored the voting rights of 50,000 people with felony convictions on parole, while Michigan overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment limiting police powers. 

On the local level, 18 ballot initiatives addressing police violence and accountability passed in major cities across the country. And in Los Angeles, voters passed a measure to invest in communities that have been impacted by our racist police and prison systems – prioritizing jobs, housing, and alternatives to incarceration.

All these ballot victories show that bold, progressive policies are enormously popular regardless of ideology. They're proof that embracing humanity and dignity is both a sound moral choice and a winning electoral strategy.

Every incumbent House Democrat who co-sponsored Medicare for All kept their seat in the general election – including several of them in Republican-leaning districts, like Pennsylvania Representative Matt Cartwright, whose district went for Trump. And 92 out of the 93 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal legislation in the House won reelection, including four representatives in battleground districts.

The success of these candidates shouldn't be surprising, given the broad support for both of these policies. A pre-election report from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 53% of Americans favor a national health-care option, including 58% of independents. 

Exit polling this year found that 66% of voters believe climate change is a serious problem.

Support for systemic action doesn't end there: early exit polls indicated that 57% of all voters across the country support the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement's historic summer protests appear to have secured Democratic victories. A recent study found that registration of Democratic and unaffiliated voters surged in June, at the peak of the protests. That voter registration effort, combined with tireless grassroots organizing by communities of color, helped carry Biden to victory.

The writing is on the wall. Voters passed progressive ballot initiatives, even in red states; they reelected progressive candidates who embraced bold policies; and they expressed support for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and an end to systemic racism.

The people have given Biden and Congress a mandate for bold, progressive change. Now they must deliver.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include:  "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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