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Election Reflection

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(Article changed on November 8, 2012 at 21:58)

(Article changed on November 8, 2012 at 18:11)

Election Reflection
Dan Brook

On November 6, 2012, Barack Obama, our first African-American president, was re-elected (50% to 48%) with a closer margin of victory compared to 2008, yet still historic. This was forecast by Nate Silver of the New York Times' Five Thirty Eight blog. Not only was Nate Silver correct overall (and right-wing ideologues like Karl Rove wrong), he was accurate in each of the fifty states, making him and Big Data the other big winners of the day.

The presidential contest cost about $2.6 billion with all the day's elections combined costing approximately a staggering $6 billion. Just a little more than one in two eligible voters went to the polls. This ridiculously high cost for elections, alongside a high level of apathy, does not bode well for democracy.

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As expected, the Democrats held onto a narrow majority in the Senate, while the Republicans maintained their majority in the House of Representatives, so the Republican tactics of obstruction and gridlock will likely continue.

Democrats were aided in their control of the Senate with a few historic elections. The two pro-rape GOP candidates, Todd Akin ("legitimate rape") and Richard Mourdock ("something God intended"), were defeated by their Democratic opponents. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor, bankruptcy expert, and one of the fiercest advocates for the middle class, was elected senator. She was originally nominated by Pres. Obama to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but blocked by the Republicans who saw her as too threatening in that position, due to her intelligence, passion, and integrity. With Barney Frank (D-MA), the first openly gay member of Congress retiring, it is a pleasure to see that progressive Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) will become the first openly-gay senator in the U.S. In total, a record ten women were elected senators, nine of them Democrats, bringing the total number of women in the Senate to a record twenty.

For the first time, voters supported marriage equality in a historic show of pride. In Maine and Maryland, same-sex marriage will now become law and civil rights will be extended. Similarly, Washington voters approved an already-existing law allowing for same-sex marriages. Just as importantly, in Minnesota, voters defeated an anti-same sex initiative. It's clear that 2012 will be seen as a critical turning point in the fight for LGBT equality.

Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, effectively making it as legal and available as alcohol, despite the continuance of it being illegal at the federal level. Massachusetts also allowed for medical marijuana, joining seventeen other states that already allow that, despite federal opposition. Even though I don't personally partake, I recognize it as sound policy.

In Vermont, independent Bernie Sanders, the only socialist in the Senate, was easily re-elected without resorting to negative ads, name calling, or meaningless sound bites, while raising and encouraging discussion, debate, and intellectual discourse about important issues, such as climate change, financial reform, and preservation of Social Security. Former Maine governor and independent Angus King was also elected, beating a Democrat and Republican in a three-way race, taking the seat of retiring moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe.

In Hawaii, Democrat Mazie Hirono became the first Asian-American woman and first Buddhist to be elected to the Senate, while Democrat Tulsi Gabbard became the first Hindu to be elected to the House of Representatives.

New Hampshire, with its motto Live Free or Die, now has women leading the state: its governor, both senators, and both House representatives.

In California, Gov. Brown's tax initiative, Proposition 30, passed, thereby preventing $6 billion in automatic cuts to schools, public safety, and social services. Proposition 32, a billionaire and corporate attack against unions, failed. These two propositions have further significance because they attracted so much Dark Money funneled through a maze of out-of-state SuperPACs. California Attorney General Kamala Harris may file money laundering charges. 
In San Jose, voters embraced a raise in the minimum wage to $10 per hour, making San Jose have the second highest minimum wage in the country, after San Francisco, which is now on record with Proposition G in opposing corporate personhood. San Jose's minimum wage campaign, with the tireless efforts of Prof. Scott Myers-Lipton, students, and others, was hatched in the sociology department of San Jose State University.

The abolition of the death penalty in California, which is barbaric, discriminatory, expensive, and doesn't deter crime, narrowly lost, although 17 other states have banned it. Likewise, the labeling of GMO food also lost, after a gigantic influx of corporate money and disinformation designed to confuse people. For the record, big money came from Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Conagra, Cargill, Clorox, Coca Cola, Pepsi, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, Campbell, Unilever, Nestle, Smithfield, Del Monte, Dole, Heinz, Hershey, Mars, Godiva, Smucker, Ocean Spray, Welch, Hormel, McCormick, Wrigley, Sunny Delight, Tree Top, Hillshire, Land O'Lakes, Bumble Bee, and other mega-corporations that have never shown any interest in health, the environment, consumers, workers, or anything else besides profit and power. 
Support for GMO labeling which would given consumers the right to know, with vastly less money than the opposition (in fact, Monsanto alone outspent all those in favor of labeling), came from a collection of organizations and companies focused on information, education, consumers' rights, health, the environment, and fair wages, including Mercola, Lundberg, Amy's Kitchen, Nature's Path, Dr. Bronner's, Clif Bar, Annie's, Nutiva, Frey Vineyards, Good Earth, Stonyfield Farm, Eden Foods, Earthbound Organic Farm, Turtle Island Foods, Sambazon, Patagonia, Food Democracy Action, the Organic Consumers' Association, some co-ops and unions, and other caring companies, organizations, and individuals. It is important to be aware of both one's friends and one's enemies.

Election Winners: Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Nate Silver, the middle class, women, reproductive freedom and Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, unions, Latinos, marriage equality and gay rights, marijuana legalization, education, renewable energy, Big Bird and the rest of PBS.

Election Losers: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan's budget, austerity, the Tea Party, Fox, Karl Rove, Ayn Rand, SuperPACs and Dark Money, voter suppression techniques, tax breaks for the wealthy, Mormonism as well as Evangelical Christianity.

Despite some right-wing anomalies (Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann was narrowly re-elected), despite many important issues that have been tragically ignored, and despite the fact that the nation is, in many ways, bitterly divided, the elections went as well as they could have reasonably gone. The 2012 Election Day was a progressive landslide, even if neither a radical nor a numerical one.

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Dan Brook, Ph.D. is a professor of political science and sociology. His writings are available at, from where he can be contacted. To get (more) involved with the campaign, check here: (more...)

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