Tammy Baldwin Makes History as First Openly Gay U.S. Senator

(and Other notable Election Results)

This year’s election was historic on many levels: Obama won a second term and the Senate tilted in favor of the Democrats (though the House is still dominated by Republicans, there’s always 2014).

But the most remarkable part of the 2012 races was the election of Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin to an open Senate seat. Not only did she roundly defeat the state’s former Republican governor, Tommy Thompson—her victory also marks the first time that an openly gay candidate has won a seat in the Senate, and the first time that Wisconsin has elected a female senator (way to move “forward,” guys).

“Now, I am well aware that I will have the honor of being Wisconsin’s first woman senator. And I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member,” Baldwin said during her acceptance speech. “But I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”

The Wisconsin senate race was the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history, according to ABC News. Outside groups poured more than $40.2 million into the state, while Thompson and Baldwin raised $20 million combined.

Baldwin’s first order of business, the Washington Post reported, is to convince the President to include the “Buffett rule” in his talks with Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff at the end of this year. The Buffett rule mandates a 30 percent tax rate for people making more than $1 million. In a letter to the president, co-authored with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Baldwin wrote, “In addition to letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for incomes above $250,000 as you have pledged to do, we believe it is imperative to enact a safeguard to ensure that the highest-earning Americans cannot subvert the progressivity of the tax code through loopholes and special rates not available to middle-class families.”

Meanwhile, despite Obama’s unequivocal win in November, the exit polls showed a race that was tighter than originally perceived, especially in the battleground states.

Exit polling from Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina showed initial results that were too close to call. Ultimately, North Carolina went to Romney (a change from 2008), while Ohio and Florida went to Obama. One of the top prizes in the race, Ohio has decided the election for the past few cycles.  Despite Romney’s refusal to concede Ohio for the better part of election night, voters in the Buckeye State eventually chose Obama by a slim margin.
Romney took the majority of the Southern states and the Plains states, long considered to be Republican strongholds. Romney failed to take Colorado and New Mexico, considered tight races but which had voted for Obama in 2008. Predictably, Romney lost his home state of Massachusetts, where he served as governor from 2003-2007. Comparing the results from 2008 and 2012, only two states switched sides: Indiana and North Carolina, both of which went to Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012.

According to the Washington Post, more voters opposed an “active Federal government” in this election than in 2008, though the economy was still the first priority among voters going into the polls.

The election is a stark picture of the reality of American politics—one that is more inclusive than before, despite Republican efforts to enact discriminatory voter ID laws in battleground jurisdictions. The face of America is changing, and once-marginalized groups, including people of color, women and the LGBT community, are now coming into the forefront of both pop culture and the political scene. The myth of the Rich White Man controlling America as we know it is becoming more and more of an anachronism.

Perhaps the best analysis comes courtesy of Meghan McCain. Though a self-declared Republican (and the daughter of 2008 Republican nominee John McCain), she staunchly advocates marriage equality and believes it would behoove the GOP to lean towards a moderate middle to remain relevant in the 21st century. “Republicans really need to take a hard look at the votes they alienated,” McCain wrote on her blog.

“I believe that for many Americans, specifically women and Latinos, the Republican Party took a hit for the messages they were putting out there. Legitimate rape? Anti-gay marriage? No to immigration reform? The Republican Party must modernize and acknowledge that these are all key issues that have cost them votes. Our party cannot continue to be misguided by its extreme right.”

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