What a difference a day makes. It was startling to wake up Wednesday morning and find myself living in a state Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat described as "Left of California". Westneat was referring to the fact that Washington voters appear to be passing Referendum 74, which legalizes gay marriage and Initiative 502 which legalizes marijuana for adult recreational use. One of the disadvantages of Washington's vote by mail system is that it sometimes takes longer to get the results. Since ballots must be accepted and counted if they are post-marked by election day, most Washington counties will continue counting ballots for I believe up to 14 days before they must submit their results to the secretary of state. As of Wednesday evening both the marriage and marijuana measures are leading. The marriage measure is still considered too close to call, but the marijuana question is projected to win by the newspapers which endorsed it. (Which is to say most of the major daily newspapers in this state.) Informed observes expect (as do I) that there will be a federal lawsuit (or perhaps a more friendly state-federal negotiation, in that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. (In a previous election, California voters rejected similar measures on both of these issues.)
However ground-breaking our state's steps towards full civil rights for lesbian and gay citizens and what may hopefully at least be a beginning of a conversation on drug policy reform-- an issue which has never gained any traction despite decades of activism by organizations like NORML, one thought that struck me while reviewing results from around the country is that while big money has been completely let lose in this election, big money did not always win. Connecticut Republican Linda McMahon spent over $40 million of her own fortune, out-spending her Democratic opponent Chris Murphy by more than two to one. Murphy easily defeated McMahon. Likewise in Virginia's Senate contest Democrat Tim Kaine vastly out-raised his Republican opponent, George Allen who received a lot of money from outside groups. But Kaine narrowly defeated Allen.
It does concern me that we Americans have maintained the divided government that has seen Washington largely grid-locked in recent years. And yet on Wednesday it sounds almost as though there is a new focus on trying to work together, seen in remarks by House Speaker John Boehner that sound a bit more conciliatory. Although the fact that Boehner remains adamant about taxes for the wealthy leaves me to wonder whether there really is any compromise to be had. I am frankly more glad than I can say for this long, divisive election to finally be over. And I am trying today to see a future in which we Americans, from our leaders in Washington all the way down to our friends and neighbors right here at home, work together to build a better future for all of us.