Listening to the US presidential candidates talking about who is more supportive of coal, or who will be tougher on foreign affairs, it can be easy to believe nothing will change, or that voting makes little difference. But there were real choices on offer, and 2012 saw many firsts. Here’s my summary of some of the more interesting results you may not have heard about.
- Hawaii elected the first Hindu American to Congress.
- Wisconsin elected the first openly gay US senator.
- Colorado Democrats elected the first openly gay speaker
- The first openly bisexual member of the US congress was elected in the state of Arizona.
- Two states, Colorado and Washington, voted to legalise marijuana, while Massachusetts voted to legalise medical marijuana.
- Same-sex marriage was legalised in three more states, Maine, Maryland and Washington, to add to the six that have already done so (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York).
- Only violent criminals can now be sentenced to life imprisonment in California, whereas before even petty thieves could end up with life terms.
- Hawaii elected the first Asian-American woman Senator, as well as the first Buddhist Senator.
- Numerous states and cities voted to overturn Citizens United, which extended constitutional rights to corporations.
- A second physicist was elected to the senate.
- Money didn’t talk quite as much as expected. Of the $400 million “invested” in American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, two Super-PAC’s supporting big-business candidates, almost all went to losing candidates.
- The candidate who set a new record for spending their personal fortune in a attempt to win a seat, Linda McMahon, lost.
- Candidates who believed women should be forced to bear children conceived by rape (if they even believed pregnancy from “legitimate rape” was even possible, lost badly.
- A record number of women were elected to the US Senate.
It’s not all about the presidential elections, and the president is in many ways quite constrained. Hopefully many of these positive changes in the lower levels of US government will bring positive changes throughout the whole system,