Glimmers of Hope: Progressive Values

By Erica C. Barnett November 28, 2011

2011 started with news of a devastating $5 billion state budget shortfall and a legislative session in Olympia that went into overtime through the end of May leading to $4.5 billion in cuts.

[pullquote]Looking to find something to be happy about in a year that offered little more than grim political choices, Cola readers point to developments from 2011 that give them hope.[/pullquote]

Six months later, as the recession continues to hit the economy, state legislators—facing another $1.5 billion shortfall—have been called back to Olympia to end the year right where they started it with another round of overtime: A special legislative session to make more cuts. Governor Chris Gregoire is now recommending $2 billion in additional cuts.

It’s scary out there—and as legislators look at cutting health programs, public safety officers, environmental programs, and education— there doesn’t seem to be much to be thankful for politically. Making a Sophie’s Choice between ending assistance for low-income pregnant women and assistance for at-risk youth doesn’t fall into the politics-of-hope category.

Looking to find something to be happy about in a year that seemed to offer little more than a repeating loop of grim political choices, we asked Cola readers to point us to political developments from the past year that give them hope.

Michael Maddux is a local Democratic Party activist in Seattle's 43rd legislative district.

Politically, 2011 has turned out to be a good year for working families and progressive causes, both at home and across the country. From the recall elections in Wisconsin, to othe defeat of anti-labor laws in Ohio, to the rejection of Tim Eyman and Kemper Freeman's 1125 here in Washington, voters are sending a message.

Here in Washington, we are continuing to see progressive causes win statewide, and progressives win at the local level, creating a solid bench for local legislative districts and county governments. While plenty of ink has been spilled on the success of pro-light rail candidates in Bellevue, we also saw Jessie Solomon win in an uphill battle in Shoreline, and Kate Kruller in Tukwila.  Kelli Linville’s return to public office in Bellingham is also a welcome win for progressives.  Having these wins follow the minor losses suffered by Democrats in 2010 (while at the same time replacing moderate Democrats with progressive Democrats in districts like the 38th and 1st), Washington is continuing to get more and more blue.

And that makes me smile.

I fear that the tactics of Occupy Seattle, especially with the news coverage that the vast majority of Washingtonians are seeing of it, may have a negative impact on this progressive march across Washington. But I am hopeful that they will begin to occupy Olympia, and the growing group of receptive, progressive Democrats waiting to use that leverage for better policy for all of Washington.

To read more from our Thanksgiving series, start here.
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