A Glimmer of Hope in the 2016 Election

By Kate Weiler, Staff Writer

It’s hard to deny that Wednesday, Nov. 9 was a memorable day. And now that almost a month has passed, the decisions made have already begun to build a foundation for the future of the United States. I will focus on three pillars of this foundation: women, wages, and weed.

Four states voted to legalize recreational marijuana on Nov. 8. Massachusetts voters said yes to Question 4, a bill to legalize the recreational use, possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana starting on Dec. 15. And with California’s vote in favor of Proposition 64, which legalizes recreational marijuana for those over the age of 21, the entire West Coast of the U.S. has legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana use. As of 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 9, California residents are allowed to grow up to six plants in their homes, and recreational sales from shops will become legal on Jan. 1, 2018.

Nevada and Maine voted yes on their weed referenda as well. As of January 1, 2018, Nevada residents are legally allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. While all four of these states are left-leaning, the decision made is significant for both their economies and their law enforcement policies.

Four states — Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington — passed ballot measures that will raise the minimum wage significantly by the year 2020. Hourly workers in Arizona, Colorado, and Maine will see their wages rise to $12 an hour, gains of more than $3.75 per hour, and Washington’s minimum wage will rise to $13.50 by 2020, an increase of $4.03 an hour. In South Dakota, a referendum that would lower wages for workers under 18 years of age was defeated.

Several incredible women celebrated wins on October 8. Tucked into the surprise surrounding the loss of Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton were little glimmers of hope for women in politics, with several “firsts” as countless women were elected to various offices across the country.

Kamala Harris is the first black politician to represent California in the Senate, and the second black woman ever elected to the chamber. In Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina ever elected to the Senate. The first Indian-American woman elected to Congress, Pramila Jayapal, won over Seattle’s seventh Congressional District in Washington. An immigrant, founder of advocacy group OneAmerica, and Washington State senator, Jayapal has been praised for her resilient progressivism.

Ilhan Omar is the first Somali American to be elected to State Legislature. A refugee who immigrated to the United States at when he was 12, Omar wishes to represent and protect the diverse people of her district, focusing in particular on the rights of immigrants and refugees who seek a better future in America.

In Illinois, Tammy Duckworth defeated Republican Senator Mark Kirk. A veteran of the Iraq war, in which she lost both her legs, Duckworth has promised to use her new power to address structural issues that have prevented veterans’ access to private doctors and to speak for soldiers who have previously been silenced about deployment and foreign policy.

Oregon’s Kate Brown, who took over the position of governor when her predecessor resigned this past year, has become the first openly LGBT person elected governor. She is an outspoken advocate for marginalized communities, including women, underprivileged youth, and the LGBTQ community.

The progress made by these election results, which support of the right to recreational marijuana, higher wages for workers, and women in power, should be recognized and appreciated across party lines. Despite the setbacks, things are changing for the better and will continue to change for the better, and that in and of itself is comforting. So, in this difficult time, remember the good things in life: you don’t have to go all the way to Colorado to light up.

From the print edition published Dec. 7, 2016

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