“A lot of elected officials are with us on this issue, but they are afraid. They don’t believe that their constituents will support them in taking this radical position,” DSW’s communications director, Kaytlin Bailey, says, adding that ballot initiatives are a good way to give legislators courage. “We have to convince them that their constituents won’t revolt if they suggest we shouldn’t arrest people for engaging in the world’s oldest profession.”
While pushing for more progressive legislation is needed, sometimes waiting until the time is right is more pragmatic in the long run. Stanger decided against pursuing a decriminalization measure for Oregon’s ballot this year when her lobbyist friend advised that next year would be better because more Democrats might be seated in the state’s capital then. “I don’t think we’re ready, I think we’re almost ready,” she says. “If a bill like this goes to vote and it doesn’t pass, it’s going to set us back five, 10 more years, whereas if we wait until next year when more people are educated and more officials understand why we’re doing it and it’s not just pandering, we’ll have a better chance of passing.”
Bailey, on the other hand, believes the time is now. “The country is ready to have this conversation. The presidency and the Me Too movement are all part of the willingness to think of radical new solutions to old problems.” With a stronger left emerging and a new generation of voters heading to the polls this year, perhaps the moment for change is already here.