President Obama winning would have satisfied most Democrats, winning decisively in the Electoral College was a bonus. And it only got better for progressives from there as an array of victories, big and small, tangible and symbolic, trickled down in elections and ballot measures around the country.
From a stunning Senate wave to new ballot measures on drugs and gay marriage to meltdowns among their favorite nemeses, Democrats had plenty to rub in conservative’s faces (and they did, often, on Twitter). Here’s a quick rundown of a few of the more savory wins for the left.
•A Landmark Night For Gay Rights
Remember 2004, when a gay marriage backlash helped sweep President Bush into a solid victory over John Kerry? Tuesday was the opposite of that.
Multiple states legalized same sex marriage — Maryland, Maine, and Washington — becoming the first to do so by popular vote instead of court decision or legislation. Minnesota voters rejected a ban on gay marriage. Making the victories extra sweet: polling evidence that Obama’s personal endorsement of gay marriage, another watershed validated by the election, was a difference maker in Maryland.
But the biggest moment may have been in Wisconsin, where Tammy Baldwin defeated a former governor, Tommy Thompson, to become the first openly gay senator in history. At least as remarkable is that her orientation was a complete non-issue for both parties in the campaign.
After what’s already been a hugely successful few years for gay rights advocates, there’s little question which direction the country is heading. As Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer put it on Twitter:
The GOP will recover. But the anti-gay rights people? This is the beginning of their ragnarok.— AdamSerwer (@AdamSerwer) November 7, 2012
• Karl Rove Sets Billionaires’ Money On Fire: Karl Rove was the bogeyman that powered thousands of Democratic fundraising emails to supporters. And they had reason to be scared. Exploiting new rules under Citizens United and a general outpouring of disgust for Obama from the nation’s richest citizens, Rove raised hundreds of millions of dollars from mega-donors, much of it anonymously.
Now he has to explain to the billionaires why their unprecedented spending earned them — nothing. For all the money spent, there’s still a Democratic president and, almost as unbelievably, a net gain in the Senate.
Just that thought would have been enough for Democrats, but Rove happened to be on live TV as the results were called on FOX News for Obama. In an epic on-air tantrum, he refused to acknowledge Obama had won, sending anchor Megyn Kelly walking off-set to ask the network’s vote analysts to explain for him why tipping point Ohio was lost to Romney. Democrats will be replaying this clip for years to cheer them up in their darker moments.
• Two Words: Allen West
The most most prominent members of the tea party — we called them the “tea party Mt. Rushmore” in September — faced very tough races last night, giving Democrats standing to say the movement is looking weaker. Two of the Republicans Democrats love to hate went down in defeat, meaning the next Congress will have no Allen West (FL) or Joe Walsh (IL). Michele Bachmann (MN) survived, with her Democratic opponent conceding on Wednesday. Of the most incendiary tea party voices on the hill, only Steve King (IA) had a drama-free night.
Look for Democrats to cast the West and Walsh results as proof they had a good night despite failing to win back a House majority.
Update: Nov. 7, 1:00 PM: At the end of the first count West was down more than 2,000 votes. But the AP never called the race and on Wednesday West’s campaign said it’s not ready to throw in the towel.
• Pot For Everyone! — Liberals in Colorado and Washington are probably celebrating Obama’s re-election in their usual fashion. But this time it’s legal.
In a development right out of one of David Simon’s daydreams, two states passed landmark ballot measures legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. This puts them afoul of federal drug laws and sets up a likely confrontation with the Obama administration, which has been cracking down recently on medicinal marijuana in states that allow it. But the results pointed to a huge cultural shift in the direction of laxer drug laws, especially out west.
• Stardom Denied Mia Love … For Now
Saratoga Springs, Utah, mayor Mia Love was one of the few objectively breakout stars of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Republicans were excited at the prospect of having their first black female member of Congress after public polling showed her pulling ahead in her race against incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson (D). Those polls proved to be wrong, and Matheson came away with the win Tuesday. Given Love’s growing national profile in Republican circles, it’s unlikely her defeat Tuesday pushes her off the scene for long. But Democrats kept one of the GOP’s brightest prospects back in Utah for at least another two years.
•The Kids Are Alright
Democrats felt good about their big margins with Latinos and African Americans heading into the election (and even better heading out of it as their voting coalition steamrolled Republicans in states around the country). But the young voters who showed up for Obama in 2008 were another story. Polls showed them significantly less enthused, and the Romney campaign thought the rough economy would be enough for them to bring some over to their side. It wasn’t a coincidence that the most memorable line of Paul Ryan’s convention speech was about “fading Obama posters” on their walls.
But in a happy surprise for Democrats, they showed up in droves for Obama again in 2012. Voters under 30 made up 19% of the electorate per exit polling, an increase of their share from 2008. And Obama still blew out Romney on the margins, winning their vote 60-36. As the Republican Party gets older, the prospect of a rapidly growing generation of reliable Democrats that actually shows up on Election Day is about the worst news possible.
If you thought Karl Rove’s five stages of grief on FOX News was fun, you should have had Donald Trump’s twitter feed bookmarked in your browser. Obama’s crassest opponent let loose with an epic screed that translated loosely to “I’m melllllting, I’m melllllting!”
This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
House of Representatives shouldn’t give anything to Obama unless he terminates Obamacare.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
This last one might have just been projection:
Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
Oh, and did we mention Elizabeth Warren won?