A Grand Progressive Victory

Obviously, the most important thing that happened last night was President Obama's victory. But it's worth noting that this election was a victory for progressivism in so many ways. Some of the most infuriating conservative Democrats, particularly Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman, are gone. And some of the new Democrats are more progressive than anyone would have wished for a few years ago. Elizabeth Warren is now a senator. So is Tammy Baldwin, the chamber's first openly gay member. And they were just two of a large group of Democratic women that won, including newly-elected senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Maggie Hassan, the next governor of New Hampshire (in addition to Hassan, New Hampshire now has an all-female congressional delegation, counting both senators and both House members). While there are plenty of Tea Partiers left, a few of the most odious ones, including Allen West and Joe Walsh, are free to pursue their careers in talk radio. We can safely say that the Tea Party's moment has passed.

Progressive initiatives also won big. In Maryland, voters approved a state version of the DREAM Act, allowing undocumented immigrants who graduate high school to get in-state tuition at state universities. California voters passed a tax increase to fund education. Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana (although how these new laws will be treated by the federal government is uncertain). And perhaps most strikingly, the tide has emphatically turned on marriage equality. Even as the country and the courts moved away from them, opponents of marriage equality always proclaimed proudly that every time the question had been put to the voters, their side had won. Well not anymore. There were four marriage initiatives on the ballot yesterday, and the equality side won all four. Voters in Minnesota rejected an initiative to amend the state's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. And more importantly, voters in Maryland, Maine, and Washington all approved measures allowing same-sex marriages in their states.

Finally, let's not forget that the presidential election was a choice between two different governing philosophies. For all the petty disputes and endless coverage of gaffes, both candidates spent time making a case for their fundamental visions of government—what it should and shouldn't do, where its obligations are, how it relates to the citizenry, and what we have a right to expect from it. Obama talked repeatedly about how we're all in this together, the essence of progressive belief. And he won that argument.

As the difference between 2008 and 2010 taught us, these victories can be short-lived. But for now, everyone should understand that the left made progress that went well beyond the White House.


The original "liberal majority" did not SPECIFICALLY include blacks, Latinos, women and "non-orthodox" lifestyles (hippies had not yet appeared), and thus could appeal to traditional-minded union workers in the Northeast as well as Southern whites who NEEDED the New Deal help to climb out of the Great Depression (which the South had been suffering since Reconstruction). When its custodian, the institution of the Democratic Party, began to expand the idea of civil rights to blacks, and the hippies appeared and challenged traditional personal morality (sex, drugs, and worst of all, rock-n-roll), the Southern racial bigots bolted (their economy had been brought up almost to a par with the rest of the nation), and then later, due to right wing and Evangelical propaganda, most of the rest of the white part of the coalition.

With this election, that "silent majority" which will soon no longer be a majority began to realize that the right has bamboozled them. It is not yet a GRAND progressive victory, but it is a start. It is not Berlin's surrender, it is the Bulge; it is not Tokyo's surrender, it is Midway. Keep on fighting!

Another war metaphor: Tuesday was not Appomattox, but it was Gettysburg.

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