Did US 2012 signify a shift to the Left?

As laws approving gay marriage and legalising marijuana are passed, we ask if the US is becoming more socially liberal.

Some are painting the the US elections as a major victory for a progressive vision of America.

We do know that America is getting browner and that America is getting more urban. The thing we don’t know is if this turnout can be replicated when Barack Obama is not on the ballot …. It’s smart for conservatives and Republicans to assume that they have to fix their problems and get better at communicating. But we really don’t know, could Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden turn out young people, for examples, or African-Americans at the same rate as Barack Obama?

– Matt Lewis, senior contributer to The Daily Caller

President Barack Obama was re-elected despite attempts by Republicans to paint him as an angry, socialist liberal, African-American infringing on religious rights.

For the first time in US history, gay marriage was legalised by popular vote in three states. And in another first for the country, two states legalised marijuana for recreational use.

It was also a good day for the political representation of women in the US as 20 – the highest ever number – were elected to the senate.

Obama led Romney by 11 to 18 percentage points among women nationwide and a record number of women will be serving in Washington next year.

The 113th Congress will include 20 female senators and 77 congresswomen, according to the Center for Women in Politics.

The election also means that a record number of women of colour – 28 – will be serving in the house.

New Hampshire will have an all-female congressional delegation in addition to female governor. And Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Wisconsin elected women to the senate for the first time.

Meanwhile, Arizona looks set to send a woman to congress who is both openly atheist and openly bisexual.

This is an amazing amount of progress but it’s very slow and incremental all the same. So we should celebrate and we should also recognise that there’s a long way left to go … it’s also really interesting to see how diverse the women in congress are … this is really a reflection of the country, more people stepping up and participating.”

– Irin Carmon, a writer for salon.com

And candidates who had made glib comments on female reproductive health or rape were thrown out of office. In addition, in Florida, a law that may have restricted access to abortion was defeated.

Although President Obama was less popular with male voters with Mitt Romney receiving 52 per cent of their vote but Obama won 55 per cent of the vote among women.

However, Romney carried 59 per cent of the vote among Whites.

In terms of the Black vote, Obama won overwhelmingly with 93 per cent. And among Latinos his share was 71 per cent while he gained 73 per cent among Asian-Americans.

And there were also several victories for gay rights.

Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin, was elected as the first openly gay member of the senate. The states of Maine, Maryland and Washington voted to approve gay marriage.

And voters in Minnesota defeated an amendment that would have defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.

Across the United States, voters made choices that seemed more aligned with liberal ideas.

Both Colorado and Washignton approved the recreational use of marijuana with measures allowing state-regulated sales and decriminalising possession passed with solid margins.

And Massachusetts voters approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Florida voters rejected a measure that would have limited abortion access and a measure that would have provided direct state funding to religious organisations.

So does the 2012 election signify a victory for progressives in what has been called the  US culture war?  

To discuss this, Inside Story US 2012, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Irin Carmon, writer for salon.com, Frank Schaeffer, the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of it Back; and Matt Lewis, senior contributor to The Daily Caller.

“The demographics point out that the Republican Party has a real problem. And to put it very bluntly it’s a problem of committing suicide by disrespecting women, minorities, African-Americans, the gay community. You know there is only so many times you can tell a group of people to self-deport or to have people running for the senate who make casual remarks about rape and these sorts of things which turn people off.”

Frank Schaeffer, an author