Election Subtext: Most Voters Still Love American Liberty

Are you dissatisfied with the November 2020 elections? If you value constitutional liberty, the results may actually give reason for hope.

I don’t care much about party labels, but during the campaign season one of our major parties seemed to embrace large doses of socialism in practice if not in name: Medicare for all, free college, government takeover of economic activity in a “Green New Deal,” etc. Some of their most prominent candidates practiced race-based identity politics and peddled a “woke” view of America as congenitally unjust.

Their presidential candidate may have won the popular vote. But voters did not ratify his party’s posture. Instead of gaining, his party lost seats in the House of Representatives, and the other party—the one that, despite its faults, vociferously rejected woke socialism—held statehouses and governorships across the country and may likely hold its U.S. Senate majority. The blue wave was a ripple against a red crosscurrent.

Moreover, the siren song of identity politics rang false to many. African-American and Hispanic voters gave the Democratic candidate a lower percentage than in any recent election. To be sure, 80% of Black men voted Democrat. But this was down from 95% support for Barack Obama in 2008, 87% for Obama in 2012, and 82% for Clinton in 2016. Forget the partisan dimension: it is healthy when citizens reject race-driven identity politics.

Election results held surprises even in California, supposedly the bastion of Big Government. Even while they voted two-to-one for the Democratic presidential candidate, California voters rejected measures he endorsed on the state ballot. They rejected expansion of rent control (Proposition 21), race-based affirmative action (Proposition 17), increased property taxes on businesses (Proposition 15), and the essence of California’s Assembly Bill 5 restricting independent contractors (by supporting Proposition 22).

The Independent Institute had something to do with this. We had already won key arguments in the court of public opinion. For example, our “Open Letter to Suspend AB-5,” signed by 153 Ph.D. scholars across California and widely promoted, successfully made the case against California’s war on the “gig economy”—thus enhancing momentum for Proposition 22.

Likewise, we argued against a state-mandated “ethnic studies” curriculum, which would have taught high-schoolers that “capitalism is racist” and accused Jews, Koreans, the Irish, Armenians and other minorities of “white privilege” for simply working hard and succeeding. Our arguments in the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and many other outlets, influenced Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto the mandated curriculum. And, this victory against racialism carried over into voters’ rejection of Proposition 17.

In California, as elsewhere, Americans were not sold on woke, nor on socialism. Most Americans like America—including individual liberty and the rule of law. This is good news indeed and shows the power of good ideas over bad ones!

Graham H. Walker is President of the Independent Institute and Assistant Editor of The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy.
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