by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Major progressive referenda faced defeat Tuesday evening, with a series of rebuttals at the polls capping a night of uncertainty and disappointment for Democrats across the country.
California voters, while decisively handing their national endorsement to Democrats, beat back ballot initiatives to abolish cash bail and end the state’s ban on affirmative action in higher education admissions. In bright-blue Illinois, meanwhile, voters defeated a plan, spearheaded by the state’s Democratic governor, to implement a progressive income tax.
Although faring poorly in general, progressive-backed ballot initiatives did well in some jurisdictions, particularly as voters embraced expanded drug decriminalization and legalization.
Nonetheless, major defeats for left-leaning proposals add, alongside polling misses and still-razor-thin races for the presidency and Senate, to the overall sense of surprising failure for Democrats on Tuesday evening. …
… California, which has one of the most expansive systems of ballot initiatives and referenda in the nation, played home to several major progressive defeats. Leading the pack was Proposition 16, which asked Californians to repeal the state’s constitutional ban on the use of affirmative action in government, including in public college admissions, and which earned the endorsement of national Democrats, including vice presidential hopeful Kamala Harris. But California voters Wednesday conclusively defeated the measure, with 56 percent opposed.
Californians similarly signaled their opposition to further criminal justice “reform,” with a majority as of Wednesday having rejected a proposal that previously passed the state legislature and would eliminate cash bail in the state and replace it with judges’ assessments of risk, including a standard release for those convicted of misdemeanor offenses. And voters also backed Proposition 22, which would permit rideshare drivers to be treated as independent contractors—a blow to the state’s restrictive regime for gig workers.