The 2020 General Election has come and gone, although the vote counting and legal actions over a variety of issues are apt to continue for some time. Whether you are happy or sad about the outcome of races and ballot measures in Missouri, one thing is certain: Our advocacy for social justice will continue to be vitally important as new leadership settles into place in Washington, DC, and in Jefferson City.
Let us not be confused: our hope for social justice does not hinge on any particular political party or candidate. Justice is always about people organizing into powerful movements, not about the winners of political contests. At the center of those movements should be personally impacted people. As Stacey Abrams said in a post-election conversation with several grassroots justice organizations on November 4 (find her speech at about the 1 hour and nine minute mark), “When Black communities rise, we lift everyone with us…When the marginalized and disadvantaged rise, we gain the power that belongs to us.”
Empower Missouri is a strictly non-partisan organization, willing and able to work with elected officials from all sides of the aisle to move justice-oriented public policy forward. We now know who some of the key leaders will be in the Missouri House following election of Majority and Minority Caucus officers on November 4 and 5. We will begin reaching out to them, potential sponsors, and other key stakeholders immediately to advance our priorities, including:
- Missouri must back away from the “tough on crime” policies that have filled our prisons and bloated our state budget. Progress was made on this from 2017 through 2019, but unfortunately a backlash from law enforcement organizations and election year politics caused some elected officials to reverse course in 2020.
- With food insecurity projected to rise from 12 percent to 16.4 percent in Missouri according to an October report from Feeding America, it is possible that one out of four children will experience hunger. We cannot allow this to happen. Missouri must suspend the harsh rules around the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program that were instituted in 2015 as part of Senate Bill 24. Nutrition assistance and cash aid improve the health of vulnerable families while stimulating the economy.
- As coronavirus cases continue to rise, and tens of thousands of Missouri households report inability to pay rent or utility bills, Missouri must enact a statewide moratorium on evictions and utility disconnections. But that is not enough. The debts for these will bankrupt households if the federal government fails to pass robust relief programs to pay down the bills for these essential basic human needs. (Please continue to reach out to Senators Blunt and Hawley about this by using our email template.)
- Our outdated, cruel, and medically inaccurate HIV-specific criminal codes continue to work against public health. We must finally end the stigma and change the law in 2021.
Unfortunately, the deceptive wording of Amendment 3, repeal of our non-partisan redistricting victory from 2018, fooled enough Missourians that the constitutional amendment passed on November 3 with 51 percent of the vote. That means we will have to mobilize with a long list of bi-partisan allies in 2021 to stop the extreme gerrymandering that Amendment 3 makes possible. As an editorial in the St. Louis American stated, “Among other changes, Amendment 3 on the November 3 ballot would eliminate the requirement that state legislative maps be drawn based on total population, meaning that 1.5 million Missourians — almost all of them children — would be uncounted and unrepresented.” This especially impacts on communities with high populations of African American and Latinx children, and we must speak up loudly and firmly during the redistricting process.
The election is over, but our work continues. Please attend our Racial Equity Summit on November 20 to learn how to plug into these and other important justice campaigns. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, but it must be done. As Stacey Abrams said in the speech referenced earlier, “Justice has no timetable; it just has a destination.” Let us continue on our journey together until we get there!
Jeanette Mott Oxford
Director of Policy and Organizing