Delirious supporters at U.S. President Barack Obama’s victory speech, McCormick Place Chicago, early Wednesday morning. Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images.
On Tuesday night Barack Obama - who had led Mitt Romney in most Electoral College projections every single day of this race - won the election that he was supposed to.
But the November 6 win represented so much more than a victory for a moderate Democrat. We hear that every election is the most important of our lives, but this year it may well prove to be true.
The diverse, creative, younger coalition that propelled the first black man to the presidency in 2008 beat back what may well have been the last stand of Ronald Reagan's coalition of plutocrats, white working-class men and religious conservatives.
The Republican party, with its deep-pocketed donors and extensive network of supportive media and think tanks, remains viable for the immediate future - thanks in part to some dramatic gerrymandering in 2010 - but the demographic headwinds it faces will soon be too powerful to overcome. The GOP's most reliable supporters remain white married couples who identify as Christians, a group that continues its steep numerical decline.
Women, especially unmarried women, delivered a sharp blow to those "limited-government" conservative men who feel entitled to regulate their reproductive choices.
Although it's unlikely the war is over, the politics of playing on white racial anxiety lost a major battle as well. The Romney campaign, as my colleague Adele Stan wrote, "pushed the boundaries of ‘acceptable racism' to extremes." The dog-whistles from the conservative media went far beyond, yet this wasn't enough to win it for Romney.
Tens of millions of Americans who were priced out of the medical insurance market won big on Tuesday. Rather than seeing a concerted effort to strangle "Obamacare" in its cradle, the administration's signature achievement will be fully implemented, and hopefully then built upon and improved the same way Social Security and Medicare were.
Millions of poor people will get tax-funded, single-payer health care through an expanded Medicaid program, and tens of millions more will come to realize that there are no death panels, but instead subsidies for small businesses to provide their workers with insurance and for middle-class families squeezed to death by the growing burden of their care costs.
Watch the popularity of Obama's health care reforms rise over the next four years. That will also be a victory over the right's almost religious belief that "the market" can cure all our ills.
Voters and election protection activists scored a very hard-fought win over those who believe that some Americans have a greater right to vote than others. Efforts to suppress the vote among typically Democratic-leaning groups were flagrant and widespread. But Americans waited in the cold in those six-hour lines, got the right ID and jumped through whatever hoops they had to.
A unified America was a winner as well. The Republicans would have turned vast swaths of our already threadbare social safety net over to the states to administer, making deep cuts in the process. As a result, people living in "blue" and "red" states would effectively have become citizens of different countries. The poor and working class in red states would have been eligible for far fewer public benefits. No longer would we have been citizens of the United States who happen to live in Alabama or Vermont; we would have become citizens of states with markedly different philosophies of government.
After the most opaque and mendacious campaign in memory, "post-truth politics" lost on Tuesday. Never again will a candidate think he or she can promise to reveal his or her plans after the election and hope that will fly with the public.
Fat-cat right-wing donors spent billions for nothing. As much as $6 billion was dispensed in an election that returned the same speaker of the House and Senate majority leader, and the same man to the Oval Office.
Now, for progressive America, the fight turns. We can savour a victory over those who would take us back to an earlier time, but only briefly. Now we have to organize and turn our energy to pressuring the Democrats to fight for our ideals.
We now have a progressive coalition in the United States that can win against steep odds. That is ultimately the big winner of the 2012 election.