President Obama’s historic win on Tuesday night — he’s the first sitting president since FDR to win re-election with an unemployment rate this high — ensures his legacy: The Affordable Care Act won’t be overturned, Social Security and Medicare will likely be preserved, and women will have greater reproductive rights, access to healthcare and fair pay.
But Obama is hardly the only winner. Progressives across the nation are cheering, thanks to the success of several ballot initiatives and other signs suggesting that the country is getting more liberal. Here are five:
1. Democrats crushed the GOP in Senate races
A few months ago, it seemed all but certain that Republicans would take control of the Senate. But Democrats have actually increased their Senate majority from 53-47 to 55-45. This is in large part thanks to Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, the two candidates in Indiana and Missouri, respectively, who made controversial remarks about rape and abortion. They lost substantially, especially among women voters. Other big wins included progressive hero Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, who took back the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat from Republican Scott Brown, and Rep. Chris Murphy, who won against Republican wrestling exec Linda McMahon in Connecticut, who poured millions of dollars into her campaign.
2. Same-sex marriage wins in two states
Maryland and Maine voted to legalize gay marriage—the first states to approve initiatives by popular vote. (Prior to Tuesday, gay marriage had gone down in defeat in some form or another on some three dozen past referendums.) They both passed by approximately a 5% margin. A similar initiative in Washington is still too early to call.
Minnesota also defeated a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The wins for gay rights are an important signal to the Supreme Court as it plans to consider same-sex marriage cases later this year, and suggest that national attitudes on gay marriage continue to change.
3. Two states greenlight the recreational use of marijuana
Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Tuesday night. The ballot measures go against federal law, so implementation is still uncertain. In Massachusetts, voters also approved an initiative allowing people to use the drug for medicinal purposes.
4. America elects its first openly gay senator
Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay politician elected to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday night. The seven-term Democratic lawmaker beat former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson in a victory that advocacy groups are praising as step in diversifying Congress. In addition, Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Pocan, who is also gay, will replace Baldwin in the House. And Sean Maloney, a former Clinton White House staffer who is also gay, beat Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth in New York.
5. Maryland OKs ‘Dream Act’ ballot initiative
Immigration advocates scored a big victory in Maryland as the state’s voters approved a ballot initiative allowing some illegal immigrant students to pay in-state tuition rates to attend college. The initiative passed 57% to 43%. Critics of the measure argued the legislation would bring more undocumented immigrants to the state. “Tonight, Marylanders chose to make the dream of a college education a reality for every child by voting for DREAM,” tweeted Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Tune into Hardball at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday. We’ll have NBC News’ chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd, HBO’s Bill Maher, Indiana Senator-elect Joe Donnelly, and more to weigh in on last night’s results.