Obamacare is officially no longer a dirty word, as Democratic President Barack Obama wins his reelection campaign and will serve a second term in the White House. It wasn’t just an affirmation of approval of the president and his policies, but a rejection of Republican extremism that took what could have been a victory for the GOP in the senate and instead kept it firmly in Democratic hands.
Democrats won nearly every one of their contested senate races, often with progressive female candidates as the victors. Massachussett’s Elizabeth Warren unseated Tea Party special election victor Scott Brown. And Tammy Baldwin will be the next senator from Wisconsin, making her the first lesbian senator. Even less progressive Democrats, such as Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill defeated Congressman Todd “legitimate rape” Akin and kept her seat. In fact, every single Democratic female senator up for reelection retained her seat.
Democrats also retained seats in Florida where Ben Nelson held out against Connie Mack, and in Connecticut where Chris Murphy handily beat businesswoman Linda McMahon. Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown also held off rivals in what were near tossup races prior to election day. And they gained seats in Indiana, where Joe Donnelly beat Richard “Rape Pregnancies Are From God” Mourdock, and in Maine, where Republican Olympia Snowe was replaced by Independent Angus King, who is expected to caucus with the Democrats. Democrat Time Kaine beat Republican George Allen in Virginia as well. West Virginia’s conservative Democrat Joe Manchin also held onto his seat.
Republicans did have victories as well. In the race to replace anti-choice Democrat Ben Nelson, Republican Deb Fischer has defeated former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey. Republican Rick Berg, who once pushed for a bill that could have jailed women who sought out abortions, managed to beat Democrat Heidi Heidkamp in a close election, too.
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The House will remain in Republican hands, with Democrats making little of a dent in the Republicans’ 25-seat majority. However, one major victory for the night was that of Illinois’s Tammy Duckworth, who defeated extreme anti-choice Tea Party freshman Congressman Joe Walsh. Democrat Ann McLane Kuster beat Republican Congressman Charlie Bass, who had ousted her from office in 2010. Also a big win? In Minnesota, Democrat Rick Nolan beat Republican Chip Cravaack, who had won a major upset in 2010 when he took out long time anti-choice Democrat Jim Oberstar.
Perhaps one of the most heartening wins of the evening was in New Hampshire, where Democrat Maggie Hassan was elected the next Governor. This makes Hassan the only pro-choice female Governor as of 2013, and, when you add in the slate of women elected to Congress in the state as well, creates the only all-female political team in the country, with a female governor, two female senators, and two female representatives.
At least 18 women will be serving in senate in 2013, a record number.
So what happened to the Republican party, and what do these results tell us? As NBC’s David Williams opined during election night coverage, the GOP made a wrong turn when campaigns suddenly turned to “vaginal probes and rape.” Even the Republican Party operative he interviewed admitted that the issue was extreme ideology that couldn’t connect with voters—especially not women.
The results were clear: when a diverse population of people are voting, Democrats are preferred, while Republicans still hold on to their tight-holds, a fact that was utterly emphasized by their continuing victories in many congressional races.
There’s a warning there. As we saw in 2010, 2011, and 2012, it’s state legislatures that are passing some of the most restrictive measures in the country, especially when it comes to women’s health, government services, public employees, and state budgets. If the conservative movement continues its hyper-focus on these local races, and especially governorships, they can continue to have massive adverse impact on women and families, all without influencing federal policy much at all.
We’ve won a large victory, but now it’s on to the real work. Winning elections is done. Winning back our rights is a much bigger struggle.