Give 2012 credit as it leaves the scene. This wasn’t just another year. It was a year marked by tipping points in the life of the nation.
Consider gay marriage: In 2006, voters in six states banned same-sex marriage and gay parents protested for the right to attend the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Last month, voters in three states legalized same-sex marriage, and this month, an openly gay Marine Corps captain – think about that phrase a moment – proposed to his partner during a holiday tour of the White House.
And the general reaction was, “aawwww.”
Consider marijuana: In March, conservative preacher Pat Robertson came out in favor of legalization of marijuana, and voters in Colorado and Washington made theirs the first to legalize and regulate it, while Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana. After 40 years, support for the war on drugs is suddenly crumbling, and there’s no going back.
We saw a big demographic tipping point: In May the Census announced that the majority of babies born in the U.S. weren’t white. In the nursery, minorities now make up the majority.
Their mommies and daddies voted in 2012, marking a tipping point for politics. Barack Obama lost the white vote to Mitt Romney by 20 percent, but still won re-election by a healthy margin, thanks to a coalition of minorities: Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, gays and young people.?
Looking back, it’s as if Republicans did their best to drive those voters away. Mitt Romney added “self-deportation” and “the 47 percent” to the political vocabulary, signaling his lack of interest in either the friends of illegal immigrants or anyone dependent on government. Other conservatives added “legitimate rape” and “vaginal probe” to the discussion, making lots of women uncomfortable. Republican state legislatures made little secret of their goal of suppressing minority voters. What reaction did they expect from the groups they targeted?
Those voters have produced a tipping point on immigration. Stymied in Congress, Obama instituted as much of the Dream Act as he could by decree, waiving deportation for young illegal immigrants brought here as children. The thinking wing of the GOP is now ready to give up its opposition to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and we’ll probably see comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.
We’ve seen a tipping point on taxes, too. Either a few hours before or within a few weeks after Washington hits its over-hyped, self-imposed fiscal cliff, Republicans in Congress will vote to increase taxes – for the first time since 1990.
While barely mentioned in the campaign, we may have passed a tipping point on climate change. A new Associated Press-GfK poll found that 80 percent of Americans now think global warming is real and dangerous. They were convinced not by politicians or scientists, but by the wildfires, drought and storm damage they saw with their own eyes.
Now, at the terrible cost of innocent lives at a Connecticut elementary school, we may be seeing a tipping point on gun control. In the space of a few weeks, two lobbying giants – Grover Norquist and the National Rifle Association – have suddenly joined the ranks of the formerly influential.
Ditto for Rush Limbaugh and the rest of what one disgruntled Republican called the conservative entertainment complex. Karl Rove raised and spent some $200 million on attack ads – and lost almost every race. Billionaires including Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers also found their money couldn’t buy votes. The Fox News gang embarrassed itself predicting a Romney win. Rupert Murdoch’s empire was shaken by a phone hacking scandal in England.
The religious right, as some prominent evangelical leaders concede, is in a long-term decline, unable to pick the Republican nominee, let alone the president. In 2012 it lost ballot battles on a string of social issues. Its message is being rejected, especially by young people.
Obama was the largest beneficiary of these tipping points, but there’s a difference. The 2008 election was all about Obama making history. The 2012 election was about the coalition of voters who agree with Obama on the issues: a center-left majority that, given the Republicans’ divisions and continuing cluelessness, may hold an advantage for many years to come.
If anything, those voters are ahead of Obama. It was said in 2008, but it’s more true this year: We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Quite a year.
Rick Holmes, opinion editor for the Daily News, blogs at Holmes & Co. (http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/holmesandco). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.