2012 Election Results: Progress in Baby Steps

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So, almost two years and four billion dollars later and it looks like nothing is going to change in the senate, house and presidency, but that’s only what we see on the surface. Many see the results of Tuesday’s election as a shift toward liberalism. True or not, Republicans must feel like they just left the doctor’s office after a prostate exam. Well, at least they no longer have to pay for it.

President Barack Obama won re-election despite mass voter suppression attempts in Ohio, Florida and elsewhere. He won in the face of a vast amount of money being dumped into Republican Super-PACs and he won in spite of some of his own failings. It wasn’t easy to be sure.

Not only did Democrats also win a greater majority of seats in the Senate, they were able to replace old retiring centrists with fairly progressive fresh blood. Consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren won her seat in one of the most expensive senate races in history and is the first ever female senator from Massachusetts. Tammy Baldwin won her Senate seat in Wisconsin becoming the first openly gay Senator in American history.

Americans rejected some of the more extremist candidates, namely Todd Akin & Richard Mourdock, better known in media circles as “the rape guys.” It turns out Akin got legitimately raped at the polls by Claire McCaskill and Richard Mourdock’s loss was something God intended.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

The Democrats clearly have some big liberal names going to Washington, but that’s not necessarily what made the evening a progressive triumph. The state ballot initiatives are what made the night truly progressive.

The states of Washington and Colorado both voted to legalize marijuana for sales and consumption. The first states to do so since pot was criminalized in the early 20th century. This will be a little tricky given that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level; we’ll have to see if Obama will continue his crack down now that he won’t face re-election again.

Three states approved gay marriage: Maine, Washington and Maryland while Minnesota refused to ban it. 75 per cent of voters in Colorado and Montana decided in favor of resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling of “Citizens United” and end corporate personhood. Californians voted to raise taxes and to modify the “Three Strikes” law, but in my opinion got it wrong when they refused to ban the death penalty and refused to label Genetically Engineered Food. No one’s perfect, I guess.

With all these progressive strides, everyone has been asking if America is turning toward the left. That’s a hard question to answer so I’d have to say both yes and no. It’s possible that Americans re-elected Obama because the liberal winds are blowing in that direction, it’s also possible they just rejected Romney for never clarifying his plans or making up his mind. Either way, both candidates were only about 2 per cent apart.

Voters did reject some of the more extremist tea party candidates, but that doesn’t signal a leftward shift. In some races, Republican candidates were so far to the right that electing Ronald Reagan would have seemed like a progressive victory.

The country as a whole isn’t changing much from what I can see. Blue states are still blue and the red are still red, the swing states have been staying blue lately, but that can change. The country in my opinion, is still partisan and divided. I think the real progressive changes we saw the other night occurred more at the state level than at the national level, in other words the liberal states are simply becoming more liberal. I don’t think gay marriage or drug legalization will be accepted in Alabama or Texas any time soon.

I don’t expect Republicans to start moving toward the centre anytime soon in response to their loss. In fact, many tea party members are blaming Romney’s loss on his fake conservatism. I don’t expect Obama to start governing more to the left either, although I feel he has a mandate to do so. An election where you get more than 50 per cent of the vote is a mandate in any democracy.

If Obama ends up compromising with Republicans more than he should, it could impede his ability to strengthen the economy, lower the deficit and tackle global warming. Not only could this tarnish his legacy, but it’ll play right into Republican hands and these progressive baby steps that were taken might be forgotten.

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