Not just the economy

For the extreme right-wing of the Republican party, the verdict in the US presidential polls must be the stuff of nightmares. Not only did their candidate, Mitt Romney, lose the contest, Americans across the country voted for liberal social values.

An array of victories for progressives, big and small, trickled in from across the country as election night drew to a close: three states Maryland, Maine and Washington legalised gay marriage, the first to do so by popular vote rather than through court or legislative decree. Minnesota voters rejected a ban on gay marriage, while Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay senator in US history. Amendments legalising recreational marijuana use passed in Colorado and Washington. The two Republican candidates who went public with their offensive views on rape were defeated, handing control of the Senate to the Democrats. And voters sent to the upper house a record number of women five, bringing the total up to at least 20.

If the demographics of the US are changing, so too are its social norms. Only eight years ago, George W. Bush ran a campaign based on opposition to gay rights, and won. Today, Obama could declare his support for equal rights for same-sex couples and pay no political price for it. There is the sense of an America transforming, voting against discrimination and for more personal freedoms for citizens. On these grounds, the Republican party has been done in by its own extreme rhetoric on social values, leaving voters with just one option if they wished for a more inclusive nation.

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