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Turning purple in Missouri

Published by the St. Louis American, August 29, 2018.


The state of Missouri was red as a beet when Donald Trump won the state in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton by a half-million votes. There were only a two blue dots in the sea of red, and those were the two urban centers of Kansas City and St. Louis. Boone County, home of the University of Missouri, shimmered a few rays of blue.

The August 7 primary may have been a turning point, as we saw big wins with the smack-down of Prop A and the unlikely victory of Wesley Bell as St. Louis County prosecutor.

Bob McCulloch must have been stunned as the results rolled in on election night. The incumbent didn’t bother to mount a serious re-election campaign. He often refused to show up for candidate forums and avoided the healthy debate on serious issues that voters deserved. His pink slip was a long time coming.

Despite a clear voter mandate over the last 40 years, once again the Republicans attempted to force a Right to Work ballot initiative on Missouri voters so that their rich buddies can pay lower wages and pocket more profits. After all the slick talking and deceptive messages, the measure was soundly defeated by a 2 to 1 margin by voters across the state. We refused to be No. 27 in the conservative game to make every state in the country a “right to work for less” state.

The measure was clearly aimed to undermine the strength of unions and reduce the wages of Missouri workers. However, Prop A galvanized opponents from all sectors – labor, faith, community, youth, civic – to block the harmful effects Proposition A would have on families and communities. It was an extraordinary effort.

Emerging collaboratives like the statewide Black/Rural Voter Engagement Project are rejecting the traditional stereotypes that have long pitted urban and rural communities against one another. These communities are finding out that we have more in common than our political enemies want us to believe we do.

It is these types of strategic alliances and intensive voter education that accounted for Democratic and Republic voters coming together in their own interests to defeat Prop A. This is a critical turning point for calming the rightward flood waters that have attempted to capsize the boat of multi-racial unity in the state for decades.

Prop 1 has qualified for the November ballot. Known as Clean Missouri during the signature-gathering phase, the ballot measure intends to minimize big corporate dollars in politics and to maximize transparency and fairness. Our hard-earned tax dollars need to work for the majority without having to compete with the unfair, financial influence that benefit a few.

We generally measure partisan politics by the dominant colors of red and blue or swirling purple. The ideal goal is for Missouri citizens to become sophisticated enough to unite around common interests and a shared vision for the future while downplaying party affiliation.

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