Election 2012 was quite the milestone in American politics, in many different ways. I don’t think a lot of people realized just what a huge night it was, but the reality is starting to sink in. Particularly among conservatives and the religious right.
Not only was the first mixed-race, pro-women’s rights, pro-marriage equality president elected to a second term, but several women made inroads into public office. In addition to Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Tammy Duckworth, Heidi Hietkamp became the first female senator from North Dakota, and in Hawaii former congresswoman Mazie Hirono won her Senate race and also became the first female senator to serve from her state, as well as the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate and the first Buddhist. The woman who won Hirono’s congressional house seat, Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, will be the first Hindu to serve in Congress.
In New Hampshire, it was women all around, with women taking each and every top elected position available: governor, both senate seats, and both of the state’s congressional seats.
To declare 2012 as the ‘Year of the Woman’ would be just about right:
In the Senate, 11 women won their races, including five newcomers and six incumbents. Nine women who were not up for reelection this year will remain in the Senate. In the House, with three races not yet called at press time, 17 newcomers were elected, joining 59 incumbents who were reelected.
The House will host a record total of 28 women of color, including 13 African-American women, nine Latinas, and six Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. The new women in the House include two military veterans: Democrat and double-amputee Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, as well as Gabbard, the Democrat from Hawaii.
But it wasn’t just women taking a place of prominence. Marriage equality also scored some huge points with Maryland, Washington and Maine all approving gay marriage, and Minnesota rejecting an amendment to their constitution to ban gay marriage. And in Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay woman to be elected to the Senate. In addition, two states, Colorado and Washington, approved the recreational use of marijuana.
And all of this was done at the voter level rather than the legislative level, which signals a huge shift in the country’s demographics and its view of social issues.
These voter decisions also fly in the face of the “values voters” and evangelical base of the Republican Party, who claim the “moral high ground” on every issue they oppose and claim to know the mind of God when it comes to governing. They also claim that the majority of Americans agree with them on these issues, but the losses handed to them on election night call that claim into questions and have them running scared:
“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.
“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”
Shocked, he says, that their positions have been rejected. He shouldn’t be shocked because people are getting tired of the divisive and exclusionary nature of Republican policy. That’s why they lost. Despite their attempts to blame anything and everything but themselves, it was their policies – and the vitriol with which they presented them – that lost the election for them, because they no longer represent the attitudes of the majority of the population – if they ever did.
The majority of the country doesn’t believe in denigrating immigrants, women and minorities; the majority believes in a woman’s right to choose and access to reproductive healthcare; the majority believes in marriage equality; the majority no longer thinks that smoking weed should land someone in jail for years; and the majority is tiring of the stranglehold that the religious right has tried to wield over public policy with their scorched earth mentality.
Over the last thirty years, through the unholy alliance of the Republican Party and the religious right, they’ve waged a campaign of fear and damnation on the country, threatening the citizenry with the wrath of god over issues like abortion and gay rights, and during the last two years their rhetoric has reached new lows with leaders and preachers calling women evil and calling for the eradication of gay and lesbian citizens and the rape and abuse of children to turn them straight, not to mention armed revolution against the government.
That kind of language and those types of views don’t win elections anymore and they appeal only to a small minority or narrow-minded, bigoted fools who have sold their sanity down the tubes and wouldn’t know an original thought if it slapped them in the face. They are no longer appealing or attractive to the majority – if they ever were to begin with. But while the evangelical right has been the loudest voice in the room, completely enraptured by their own reflection in the fun house mirror, the silent majority has been building and organizing its resources with steady determination, which played out in glorious fashion in the election of 2012 and may have finally broken the decades-long fever of insanity.