Following a long presidential campaign full of policy battles and disagreements, progressives have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. Here are 10 things we can all celebrate:
We are thankful for the millions of Americans serving our country at home and abroad. This includes 1.4 million Armed Services members, 80,000 AmeriCorps members, and 8,073 Peace Corps volunteers and trainees, 6 million teachers and public school employees, 1.1 million professional and volunteer firefighters, and 22 million total public employees.
We’re thankful for Obamacare. After surviving dozens of repeal votes in Congress, the Supreme Court, and a presidential election, the Affordable Care Act is on track to extending insurance coverage to 30 million Americans and lowering health care spending. Millions of seniors and young people have benefited from the law and inefficient insurers are distributing rebates to consumers.
We’re thankful for the social safety net. Nutrition assistance, welfare, unemployment compensation, Social Security, and other social programs keep millions of Americans out of poverty each year. Though the programs aren’t as robust as they could be, they help provide food, health care, and educational opportunity to America’s neediest families.
We’re thankful for historic progress against the War on Drugs. In passing laws to legalize and regulate marijuana in Washington and Colorado, supporters joined many local jurisdictions that have decriminalized some drug offenses in signaling their willingness to better tailor drug policy to public health and safety goals. Timed to the year when the film The House I Live In is opening new eyes to the War’s decimation of minority communities, the time is ripe to end the War that, since its declaration 40 years ago by President Richard Nixon, has cost the U.S. both money and lives while failing to curb drug use.
We’re thankful for the advocates who protected our right to vote. The past few years saw a raft of new voter suppression laws and tactics, but most of the worst laws were blocked at least temporarily by the courts or repealed by lawmakers. The challenge going forward will be to maintain these victories as litigation in several of these cases continues and the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge to the Voting Rights Act.
We’re thankful for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB, created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, has been working on new rules to protect Americans from predatory lenders, bogus credit card deals, and shady mortgage peddlers. It has also won American consumers hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds for credit card scams.
We’re thankful for Occupy Wall Street. Since its street protests last year, Occupy Wall Street has kept busy with several important projects. Occupy Our Homes saved many Americans from unfair foreclosures, while Occupy Hurricane Sandy provided aid to victims of the superstorm that battered the northeast. Occupy’s latest project, the Rolling Jubilee, raised millions of dollars in order to buy and then abolish debt.
We’re thankful for the most diverse Congress in history. On Election Day, Americans ensured that the 113th Congress will contain the widest range yet of ethnicities, religious affiliations, and sexual orientations. The incoming freshman class contains 4 African Americans, 5 Asian Americans, 10 Latinos, 24 women, the first openly bisexual congresswoman, as well as the country’s first Buddhist senator and two Hindu representatives.
We’re thankful for religious freedom. The U.S. is a nation of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, non-believers, and religious and spiritual sects of all stripes. Unlike some other countries, the U.S. protects Americans’ freedom to practice the religion of their choice without fear of repercussion, suppression, or forced religious adherence.
We’re thankful for growing LGBT equality. The sweeping victories for LGBT equality and out candidates in this election demonstrated that this country is on track to providing full benefits and protections to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. While there is still work to be done, schools are becoming safer, families are becoming more secure, and visibility and awareness are helping to lower discrimination rates.