Bright Spots in the 2014 Midterm Elections

The 2014 midterm elections were not pretty for Democrats. Republicans were able to take control of the Senate, expand their majority in the House and win several governors mansions across the country. But Democrats can take some comfort in the fact that, while candidates didn’t do well, Democratic issues did.

Ballot questions played a major role in this election cycle. From the minimum wage to paid sick leave, the American electorate was asked to judge many of our Democratic, Jewish values - and the values got very favorable results.

Voters approved a raise in the state minimum wage in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. These measures actually won by large margins, the largest of which being Alaska with 69 percent of the vote. Alaska set the minimum wage higher than the other states, with a gradual increase to $9.75 in 2016. Nebraska’s wage will go up to $9, while South Dakota and Arkansas will be set at $8.50. Given that the federal minimum wage is $7.25, this is a big win for progressive ideals. Republicans may have won seats in congress, but Democratic positions hold firm.

Massachusetts passed a ballot question requiring private sector employees to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave every year. Going into effect July 1st, employers with 11 or more employees must provide them paid sick leave. This is crucial, as 40 percent of workers in the private sector don’t have access to sick leave. Without this right, workers face losing pay or job security simply because they or a child has the misfortune to get sick. The United States is the only country out of the fifteen most competitive that doesn’t guarantee sick days to all workers.

Another ballot measure that passed in Washington state addresses the key Democratic issue of gun safety. Washington’s ballot measures calls for background checks for gun sales. Background checks are common-sense reforms to help ensure gun safety and may set an example for other states.

But the wins for the progressive agenda don’t stop there. Another big issue this year focused on women’s right to choice. In both North Dakota and Colorado, voters rejected fetal personhood measures. This is the third time Coloradoans have voted down a personhood measure in the past few years.

Only thirty six percent of eligible voters voted in this midterm. Despite the low turnout, it is apparent that the issue positions we hold as Jews span the political spectrum. When given the chance, Americans support equal pay and reasonable gun safety measures. Republicans may have won more congressional seats, but the ballot questions reflect the true mandate.