Early in the evening Tuesday, as national reporting from the Northeast and Midwest began to filter in, it started to become clear that Democrats hanging on to control of the Senate had a good deal to do with rejection of misogyny and embrace of women's leadership.
Tea Party male nut jobs with ultra-patriarchal views of rape and ideas of what their proper power over women's bodies should be cost the Republicans Senate seats in Indiana for sure, and probably Missouri. At very least they made Claire McCaskill's path to victory much smoother, and kept an important female leader in the Senate.
Meanwhile Elizabeth Warren convinced Massachusetts voters that Scott Brown's pose of moderation was as faux as Fox News' balance, probably aided by the example MItt Romney, adding a sharp intellect to the Senate. Next door New Hampshire had the pundits debating whether both Senate seats, both House seats and governorship would all be in the hands of women, or only four out of five. And out in Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin was making history becoming Wisconsin's first woman senator and the first lesbian senator from anywhere.
The significance of Baldwin's achievement stood out even more sharply later in the evening, as it became clear that both Maine and Maryland had established marriage equality by popular vote, while Minnesotans rejected a ballot measure to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. As of this writing the immediate fate of marriage equality in Washington remains uncertain though it is leading. But even if it loses in the end, it will not be by much, and the effort will remain part of an important turning of a page.
Undoubtedly there is much else of significance in the election, but one clear lesson is that misogyny and tolerance of sexual violence against women, or moral casuistry about it, is losing politics, while embrace of equality around excellent female leadership and around fairness for different sexualities increasingly can win.
Like the decline of overt racism in politics, these facts are likely to produces slyer, more covert forms of misogyny and homophobia, which will operate in deniable code language, and occasionally erupt in public like the return of the repressed expressed at a birthday party for Strom Thurmond. Still it is better that such ideas be relegated to dark, dank, slimy caves, and that parading them be a source of political death.
So it was a good night.
Nominations for the Strom Thurmond of misogyny are now open.