In January’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama looked beyond an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to issue a challenge directly to state governors: Raise your minimum wage to $10.10 so that no one working a full workweek will have to live in poverty.
Inspired by those words, Connecticut’s own Governor Dannel Malloy took immediate action. Within a matter of months, he convinced legislators in both the State Senate and State House to push through a bill that raised our minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. And on March 27, Malloy signed the bill into law, making him the first governor in the country to follow through on the President’s challenge.
Following Malloy’s example, other states then rushed to catch up. Within months, Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii had followed suit by passing similar legislation – making a livable minimum wage a reality for a growing segment of the population.
Such a chain reaction is the result of bold progressive leadership. And it is but one of the many ways in which Malloy has rapidly become America’s most influential progressive governor.
When Adam Lanza shocked the world by gunning down 20 innocent children and six adults at an elementary school not far from New Haven, Malloy responded with legislation that went further than any in the nation to keep our streets safe and address the ongoing gun violence epidemic. That swift action soon prompted other states to fall in line and pass their own versions of the legislation.
When other states scrambled to put together a statewide healthcare exchange for the Affordable Care Act, both Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman assembled the most sophisticated team in the country and produced such remarkable results that Connecticut cut its uninsured rate in half, the Obama Administration hired our exchange’s CEO to take over HealthCare.gov and other states even began purchasing Connecticut’s blueprint for implementation in their own states.
The list goes on and on. From ending the death penalty to decriminalizing marijuana, laying the groundwork for early voting and implementing paid family sick leave, Malloy has led Connecticut to become a beacon of progress.
But very soon, it may all come crashing down.
In what may come as a surprise to most Yale students, Malloy’s re-election this year is no sure bet. In fact, Republicans have poured so much money into fighting Malloy’s progressive policies that the match-up between Malloy and Republican Tom Foley has become the most competitive gubernatorial race in the country.
Those Republicans know this race has national implications. Without Malloy at the helm, Democrats have one less reliable state through which to start national progressive movements. Same-sex marriage needed a groundswell of support from states before it could gain the nationwide respect it has today. Decriminalization of marijuana at the state level eventually gave rise to a conversation about full legalization. And the death penalty is on its way to extinction because states like Connecticut have joined a chorus of voices pointing out its discriminatory disparities. But keeping up these trends requires us to elect progressives to office.
So what can you do to help Democrats keep Connecticut blue?
First, register to vote in Connecticut. Unless you live in a state with a competitive Senate race (Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina), your vote matters most right here in New Haven.
Second, do your research. Tom Foley has accepted endorsements from right-wing groups like the rabidly anti-gay Family Institute of Connecticut and the extreme gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League.
Finally, make sure to vote. Election Day is Nov. 4, and this race will be extremely close. Malloy only won in 2010 by 6,404 votes — just barely more than Yale’s undergraduate population.
If Malloy wins, we will send a message to moderate Democratic leaders that they can support bold progressive ideas without fear of electoral retribution. But if Malloy falls to Foley, the American progressive movement will lose its most instrumental soldier.
And we will have only ourselves to blame.
Tyler Blackmon is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. His columns run on Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.