That's my theory, anyway, and I'm sticking to it. Having covered for the past two years the voting rights front in this epic election cycle, I have come to believe that the Republicans will begin to win presidential elections again only when they start competing for votes with the substance of their ideas. Instead of legislating on the theory that some people are too poor or too old or too lazy to vote, and for all their talk about freedom and the Tea Party, they should try to find ways to encourage the franchise in America, to nurture and protect it.
But I don't want to talk about the losers. There will be plenty of time for that. I want to talk instead about the winners of the election of 2012. They aren't just the returning members of Congress and the president and his cabinet. They aren't just the donors and functionaries who helped fund and operate the massively expensive reelection campaign. They are, to cite just one example, the tens of thousands of citizens all over the country who fought back against the greatest threat to civil rights since the 1960s.
If there is one thing this election has proven, if there is one thing I have come to know, it is that Americans don't like it when their right to vote is threatened. The very people whose votes the Republicans sought to suppress came out to vote. In places like Akron and Orlando and Denver and Milwaukee, they came. They waited in long lines and endured the indignities of poll workers. Yet they were not cowed. Today is their day. A day when they can look at one another and appreciate that they are truly a part of the history of civil rights in this country.
And they aren't just winners for enduring the systemic challenge to their voting rights. They are winners also because President Obama's reelection guarantees that the federal judiciary in four years will be far less conservative than it is today. This means, among many other things, that when the next generation of voter suppression laws come down the road, our nation's judges will be even more suited to stop them than they were this cycle. Just think about how many legitimate votes were saved in 2012 by federal judges.
And just think about how many more votes will be protected in 2014 and 2016 because of Tuesday's election. And how many more women will enjoy reproductive rights, and how many more consumers will have a break in court against big corporations, and how many more of our children will have cleaner air to breathe or water to drink because our environmental regulations will survive, and how many more of our fellow citizens will have health insurance. These are the winners of this election, whether they know it, or can accept it, or not.
In his first term, President Obama nominated 204 judges and the Senate approved 158 of them. There is no reason to think those numbers will be lower during the coming four years (in fact, I suspect they'll be higher). This means a judiciary that for the first time in a generation in this country will be slightly more Democratic in its appointments than it is Republican. As the Reagan appointees retire or die, in other words, they'll be replaced by Obama appointees. This is what this election means -- the absence of gridlock -- if it means nothing else.