As we prepare to put 2014 behind us, let's look at five turning points this past year that are likely to have lasting effects on our lives. We'll discuss these questions on our LA Progressive Live! show this Monday and invite you to call into the show and comment here.
Black Lives Matter. From Michael Brown to Eric Garner to Tamir Rice to god knows who's next, unarmed black and brown people are dying at the hands of undisciplined, out-of-control police in a never ending stream. And people around the country have risen up to say, "This Stops Now." One weekend recently, 164 mostly peaceful protests took place simultaneously. New Yorkers by the tens of thousands filled streets and highways. In car-crazy Los Angeles, smaller contingents blocked rush hour freeways. But will this rage gradually dissipate as with Occupy? Or will this largely black-led passion translate into fundamental change?
Fight For 15. In November's election, voters in the deep red states of Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Alaska approved pay hikes for minimum wage workers. San Francisco, Seattle, and Oakland passed significant minimum wage hikes as well. President Obama raised the minimum wage for federal contractors and has called for an increase in the national level. Locally, LA's City Council overwhelmingly approved a raise to $15.37 per hour for most hotel workers. Union organizers in LA are now planning to fight for citywide hike to $15 per hour, and plans for similar efforts are afoot in Pasadena. But will these local efforts succeed in the face of growing opposition?
Will the Democratic Party regain its footing or will it just pin all its dreams on St. Hillary and hope for the best?
Democratic Shellacking.Republicans clobbered Democrats in the midterm elections, increasing their control in the House, capturing the Senate, and winning the lion's share of governorships and state legislatures. Republicans now hold the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 24 states, compared to just seven for Democrats. Emboldened by these victories, Washington Republicans and Fox Noise agitators have already ramped up their hostility toward President Obama. And for all the talk of sixth-year jinxes and bad demographics and how it'll be our turn next time, Democrats have dug themselves a deep hole. Will the Democratic Party regain its footing or will it just pin all its dreams on St. Hillary and hope for the best?
Mass Incarceration. California's Prop 47 passed easily, reducing six low-level, nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors, which will release thousands of current prisoners from the state's vastly overcrowded prisons and jails and enable formerly incarcerated individuals to remove job-killing felonies from their records. Ban The Box passed in LA, too -- removing the need to indicate past felonies on job applications. And Sheriff Leroy Baca, increasingly under pressure for deputy misconduct, was replaced by Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who indicated at least some support for civilian oversight and sentencing diversion during his campaign. But will these piecemeal advances ever address more fundamental issues in California's mass incarceration system?
Executive Order on Immigration. Freed by his party's overwhelming midterm election losses, President Obama did the best he legally could to protect five million undocumented immigrants from deportation with his recent executive order. Although its hardly the pathway to citizenship that Dreamers and a growing army of grassroots activists have fought for, his move does signal the president's greater resolve to address this long-term crisis. Naturally, Republicans have their panties in a severe knot as a result, promising to take every action they can to reverse Obama's plan -- including calling for his impeachment. With Congress and so many state governments so firmly in Republican hands, can we anticipate further progress for the undocumented or must we wait for a hoped-for victory in 2016's elections?
Editor, LA Progressive