Seeds of Hope

Article excerpt

At the close of 2004, progressives can be forgiven for feeling they've found themselves in a particularly bleak midwinter. When they gather on New Year's Eve, the term "good riddance" will doubtless accompany reflections on a year that saw America re-elect a President who gave us the Iraq quagmire, record trade and budget deficits and the steady erosion of our civil liberties. But even an annus horribilis can produce enough progress to inspire hope for better days.

Election day brought down-ticket signals that a more populist politics may be in the offing. In Vermont, the state's Progressive Party won six legislative seats. San Francisco elected an activist Green, Ross Mirkarimi, to its board of supervisors and affirmed the commitment of the city that challenged the Bush Administration's anti-gay marriage crusade to maintain its radical opposition to the politics of fear. Across the country, seventeen graduates of Camp Wellstone, inspired by Paul and Sheila Wellstone's ideals, won races for the state legislature, school board and city council, while Cincinnati voters overturned a charter amendment that prohibited city officials from passing any laws aimed at protecting gays and lesbians.

In New York David Soares, a young activist attorney who ran against the draconian Rockefeller drug laws on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, was elected Albany County District Attorney. The Los Angeles City Council unanimously adopted the nation's most aggressive antisweatshop ordinance after two years of lobbying by local unions, sweatshop workers, clergy and activists, and Florida and Nevada voters overwhelmingly passed initiatives to raise the minimum wage.

Western states saw a Democratic surge, as the party gained control of previously Republican legislative chambers and statewide seats; gains included a new US Senator, Ken Salazar, in Colorado. …