This article originally appeared in the December/January 2013 edition of The Progressive. For more great content like this, subscribe today for as little as $10 a year and receive a 2014 calendar as a free gift.
November 6 was a great day for progressives. All across America, voters resoundingly rejected the party of millionaires who dismissed as "freeloaders" the tens of millions Americans who depend on Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and college loans.
Women voters came out in force to defeat the Congressional candidates who crawled out from under a rock to try to redefine rape and relitigate our right to control our own bodies.
And appeals to racists and xenophobes went down to defeat. "Romney self-deported from the White House," said Republican analyst Ana Navarro on CNN.
Historic ballot initiatives giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry passed in Maine, Maryland, and Michigan, and Minnesota defeated a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited it -- landmark progress on one of the great civil rights battles of our time.
President Obama was reelected with a message that emphasized progressive values. At rally after rally, he talked about ending wars, preserving Medicare and Social Security for our seniors, and defending the right of people not to be denied coverage if they have a preexisting condition. He talked about helping kids out of poverty by making college more affordable and building "sturdy ladders" to the middle class, making the rich pay their fair share of taxes, supporting a woman's right to choose, upholding gay rights, and battling the entrenched interests in Washington whose only concern is to cater to the most well off.
As he told a crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, on the day before the election, "I am not going to kick some poor kid off of Head Start to give me another tax cut." He added: "The folks at the very top: They don't need another champion in Washington."
Mitt Romney was their champion. He was the candidate of the 1 percent. This was a victory for the 99 percent.
For us in Wisconsin, the sweetest moment on Election Night was seeing Tammy Baldwin defeat Tommy Thompson in that hotly contested Senate race.
The crowd at the Tammy Baldwin victory party at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in downtown Madison was euphoric. All night, the returns rolled in on giant screens in the ballroom. As Democratic victories piled up in state after state, the crowd cheered wildly. Newly elected Congressman Mark Pocan kissed his husband, Phil, to the delight of his constituents. The room exploded as the news from Ohio arrived, and Baldwin took the stage.
That a Dane County progressive -- the first woman elected to the Senate from Wisconsin and the first openly gay member of that elite club -- could beat Tommy Thompson, a titan in the Badger State, was, as Baldwin put it in her graceful victory speech, "historic."
"But I didn't run to make history," she said. "I ran to make a difference."
Baldwin's theme -- of representing the powerless -- resonated perfectly in this election year.
"When people are struggling, you don't talk down to them. You help lift them up," she said in her speech.
Brilliantly, she acknowledged people's affection for Thompson, at the same time nudging them to see how he had changed -- going to Washington, getting rich, and representing the health care industry instead of ordinary Wisconsinites.
As the Republicans' Presidential candidate went down like Thurston Howell on a sinking yacht, Tommy sank with him. And Baldwin's win seemed, at last, almost inevitable. But early on, almost no one even in her own party thought she could do it. And the national Republican Party was so confident in Thompson, they neglected to put money into the race until Baldwin had gained a startling lead.
Baldwin saw what doubters in both parties failed to grasp -- that a strong progressive message was a winning message in this election year. Thompson charged that she was "the most liberal member of Congress," and that was perfectly fair. She's been solidly to the left of her party since getting elected to the House in 1998.
But a funny thing happened in the home stretch of the 2012 election: The Democratic Party moved closer and closer to Baldwin, and progressive candidates prevailed in race after race.
In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, the champion of consumers and the nemesis of Wall Street, took down Scott Brown by sticking to her populist guns.
In Ohio, the great progressive Sherrod Brown was able to withstand an avalanche of dirty money and dirty ads from Karl Rove and the Koch brothers.
And in Missouri and Indiana, the troglodyte Republicans, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, lost because of their coldhearted, primitive view that a woman must bring to term the offspring of the rapist who impregnated her.
That happens to be Paul Ryan's position, too, and while pundits are giving him the inside lane for 2016, this one stance alone may deprive him of ever getting to the White House.
Ryan, who Republicans hoped would deliver Wisconsin for Mitt Romney, couldn't even deliver his hometown of Janesville on Election Day. He retained his Congressional seat thanks to redistricting, which added Republican Waukesha County to his home turf.
Likewise, Republicans held onto their majorities in the House of Representatives and state governments across the land because they were able to draw new maps after consolidating their power in 2010. It will be eight years before the next round of redistricting in the next census.
But November 6 showed that history and demography are not on the conservatives' side.
On immigration, Romney took it on the chin because of his hostile stance, during the primaries, on the DREAM Act and on giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Latinos went for Obama by 70-30 or better, and they accounted for 10 percent of the electorate, a number that is on the rise.
Young people returned to Obama in droves, defying the conventional wisdom about the "enthusiasm gap."
African Americans again gave him around 95 percent of their votes.
And Americans earning under $50,000 went strongly Democratic.
With Latinos, blacks, women, young people, gays and lesbians, and working people, we have the makings of a governing progressive majority.
But the Republicans and most mainstream pundits don't want Obama to implement a progressive agenda. Instead, they want him to "reach across the aisle" and compromise right away on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, and the easily reelected Bernie Sanders should immediately form a Backbone Caucus in the U.S. Senate to demand that Obama stick to his commitments.
We worry about President Obama. In his first term, on many issues (including civil liberties, drones, the Afghan War, the coup in Honduras, the bank bailout, and free trade), he failed to govern as a progressive.
And we worry about his willingness to give ground on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. These crucial programs are not only central to a liberal Democratic vision but also make a huge, positive difference in people's lives. It would be a tragedy if Obama undermined his own election with his predilection for compromise.
Instead, he should thank this coalition that once again put him in the Oval Office by governing as a progressive through and through this time.