In our Campaigns and Elections class after the election, we talked about how everything that happened was predicted to happen, so this was not a very exciting election. Although the first might might be true, thanks to Nate Silver, I still think that this was an important and exciting election.
Yes, we still remain a deeply divided country, with Congress just as divided as it’s been since 2010, but other things happened that make us seem less divided. It was the first time gay marriage has been approved at the ballot box, and it passed in every state that it was on the ballot (Maine, Maryland and Washington, and Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman.
These victories for supporters of same-sex marriage broke the losing streak of voters rejecting gay marriage in 32 states. The are also reflective of growing public support for same-sex marriage, and polls this year have shown that over 50% of Americans support it. Voters are now supporting openly gay candidates as well, with Tammy Baldwin being elected the first openly gay senator from Wisconsin.
It was also a good night for women. A record twenty women are now senators. Todd Akin and his “legitimate rape” comments went down, as did Richard Mourdock and his comments about rape being “something that god intended to happen.”
It was a good night for the people of California, and a bad night for billionaires like the Koch Brother and Sheldon Adelson. Both poured millions into Proposition 32, which would have banned unions to use paycheck deductions for political purposes, but Prop 32 was rejected by voters 56% to 44%. They also gave money to defeat Proposition 30, but Californians voted to pay more taxes in order to avoid cuts to public education.
So we can say that not much has really changed, or we can look at the big changes that did happen and be hopeful about the future. The demographics of our country are changing and we are moving in a new direction. The Republican Party needs to stop only appealing to rich white males or it will continue to lose. Billionaires can still pour millions into campaigns, but they do not always win.
We talk about how volunteer labor isn’t that great and campaigns are often poorly run, but through volunteering people become more engaged in and excited about politics. These are people who might never professionally work on a campaign or for a politician, but they believe they they have a stake in who gets elected and what voter referendums pass. And that is important, at least President Obama thinks so. He even cried!