From Pot to Protest to the Pro-Choice Base: 10 Great Things About 2012
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There are many things to be thankful for in 2012, starting with the fact that the world didn’t end on December 21 and that we don’t have to witness the inauguration of Mr. One-Percent Mitt Romney. The global economic crisis continued to hit hard, but people have been taking to the streets around the world, from students in Chile to indigenous activists in Canada to anti-austerity workers in Europe. And while the excitement of the Arab world uprisings has been tempered by divisions and losses, the struggles are far from over.
Here are some US and global issues that experienced newfound gains in 2012.
1. While conservatives launched vicious attacks on women’s rights, it backfired—and fired up the pro-choice base! US voters elected the highest number of women to Congress ever, including the first openly lesbian senator (Tammy Baldwin), the first Asian-American senator (Mazie Hirono) and first senator to make the banks tremble, Elizabeth Warren! Voters also rejected 4 crazy candidates who called for limiting a woman’s right to choose—including the resounding defeat by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill over Mr. Legitimate Rape Todd Akin. Don’t forget that when Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced it would no longer fund Planned Parenthood, it got so heartily trounced that it caved in than seventy-two hours later. And stay tuned for the 2013 global women rising—a billion of us demanding an end to violence against women on February 14!
2. Immigrant rights groups, especially young Latinos, mobilized and took great risks to force a change in attitude—and a thaw in policy. They fasted and caravanned and marched and knocked on doors. They pushed the administration and in June, just before the election, 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. While not nearly enough, especially in light of this administration’s record rate of deportations, a mobilized immigrant community with significant voting power stands poised to make more impactful changes in U.S. immigration policy next year.
3. More money flooded the elections than ever before (some $5.8 billion!), but most of it went down a big, black hole—and unleashed a new movement for money out of politics. Billionaires wasted fortunes trying to sell lousy candidates and lousy ideas. Looking at the candidates supported by the biggest moneybags of all, Sheldon Adelson, NONE were elected to office. Right-wing “pundits” like Karl Rove proved themselves to be idiotic partisan hacks and the Tea Party has been tearing itself apart. But best of all, from Massachusetts to Oregon, Colorado to Illinois and Wisconsin, and Ohio to California, citizens throughout the country voted overwhelmingly for their legislators to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and declare that only human beings – not corporations – are entitled to constitutional rights and that money is not speech and campaign spending can be regulated.
4. The marijuana genie is now out of the bottle, with people across the country backing referendums seeking an end to the decades of destructive, counterproductive drug wars. Colorado and Washington voters legalized recreational pot, and medical marijuana will be legal in Massachusetts. Voters in California passed Prop 34, which restricts lifetime incarceration via the “three strikes” law to violent or serious third offenses, a change that will help limit the prison sentences of nonviolent drug offenders. Prominent leaders including Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy, former President Bill Clinton and President Obama have hinted that they will reconsider the harsh criminal drug policy that has cost so much money and so many lives while failing to curb drug abuse.