1. Historic progress to end the war on drugs.
In passing laws to legalize small amounts of marijuana and regulate the industry 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. Since the passage of the ballot initiatives, prominent leaders including Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy, former President Bill Clinton and President Obama have hinted that they will reconsider harsh criminal drug policy that has cost the U.S. both money and lives while failing to curb drug abuse.
2. New fuel efficiency standards.
In August 2012, the Obama administration issued new miles-per-gallon rules on car manufacturers, mandating that Detroit nearly double fuel efficiency standards by 2025. These new rules helped save the auto industry, reduce oil use and carbon emissions, and push the auto-industry towards a more climate-friendly stance.
3. Young undocumented immigrants received deportation relief.
In June, President Obama announced a new immigration policy that allows some undocumented students to avoid deportation and receive work authorization when they apply for deferred action. Up to 1 million young undocumented immigrants could legally stay in the U.S. because of it.
4. Anti-LGBT Senate candidates lost, in large numbers.
Ten of the ThinkProgress Anti-LGBT Dirty Dozen Senate candidates were defeated in November.
5. Voters rejected anti-tax hysteria.
In addition to re-electing a President who campaigned on increasing marginal tax rates for the wealthy, voters across the country rejected anti-tax propositions at the state level on Election Day 2012. Voters in Michigan, Florida, and Oregon resoundingly defeated anti-tax proposals, while California voted to raise revenue by $6 billion.
6. President Obama endorsed marriage equality.
On May 9, President Obama made history as the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality for same-sex couples. Several prominent leaders in the Democratic Party followed his lead, and even the tameness of conservative responses demonstrated how public opinion has shifted on the issue.
7. Voters rejected anti-choice candidates.
After a campaign season that was largely dominated by anti-choice candidates making callous statements about sexual assault and abortion access, voters sent a clear message on November 6 that they weren’t interested in being represented by those elected officials. The five GOP candidates who incited the biggest backlash for their comments about rape all lost their races, and voters across the country rejected the anti-choice ideology that represents a threat to women’s reproductive freedom.
8. Voter suppression lost.
Most Republican voter suppression measures, from voter ID laws to gerrymandered maps to restrictions on voter registration, were defeated in the courts. Though Republicans claimed they were trying to prevent in-person voter fraud, which is exceedingly rare, some have admitted that they were trying to disenfranchise Democratic voters. Minnesota voters also rejected a voter ID amendment on Election Day. If these laws had survived, millions of Americans — especially low-income and minority individuals — would have had a much harder time participating in elections.
9. The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare.
For weeks, progressives had been bracing for bad news out of Washington, D.C where the right-leaning bench decided the fate of the most important advancement of the national health care system since the introduction of Medicare. But in June, Chief Justice Roberts surprised many by joining with the majority in upholding the law, and helped keep the nation on the road towards universal coverage.