Using The Right's Ballot Playbook
November 8, 2006 - 4:47pm ET
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Conservatives have long used the state ballot initiative process to wage debates on the most divisive issues of the day. This year, conservative dominance on the initiative landscape turned out to be a mixed bag, while dozens of progressive measures helped redefine the landscape of direct democracy.
The year 2006 signaled the first time progressives ever mounted a multistate ballot initiative strategy. Americans overwhelmingly chose to support a fair economy that works for everyone with the passage of six minimum wage initiatives. In other progressive victories, South Dakota voters rejected the draconian abortion ban in one of the most conservative states in the country. And Missouri voted to allow embryonic stem cell research in a much debated and contentious campaign.
Conversely, the total failure of TABOR, the radical anti-tax ideology pushed by New York City real estate investor Howie Rich and his radical shell groups was a bruising defeat for conservatives. After having six TABORs stripped from the ballot, voters in Maine, Nebraska and Oregon firmly rejected the rest.
While seven of eight gay marriage measures passed, these campaigns appeared far less energizing to conservative candidates and their supporters. And for the first time in history, voters appeared to reject a same-sex marriage ban as a dangerous gimmick. Arizona defeated a far-reaching measure that would have put discrimination into the state's constitution and rolled back existing domestic partnership benefits. The opponents of the ban in
Look for progressives to continue to use the ballot initiative process in the pursuit of the common good, taking a page out of the conservative strategic playbook while offering voters hope instead of cynicism and divisiveness.
Oliver Griswold is the communications director of BISC, the Ballot Iniative Strategy Center.
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