New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan

For the past two years, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has been on the warpath against the Obama administration. The bishops have lashed out at the White House for requiring employers to give workers with insurance health plans that provides free contraception. (Catholic institutions including Notre Dame have filed suit against the mandate.) The bishops have also fumed over the Department of Health and Human Services' decision not to renew its contract with the USCCB to provide services to the victims of human trafficking. The bishops had refused to allow its subcontractors to provide abortion or contraception counseling or referrals, even when it was clear that many of the victims they served really needed those services.

These fights prompted the bishops to mobilize during the presidential campaign. They staged a two-week "religious freedom" campaign over the summer that was only a thinly veiled attack on Obama. Throughout the election season, priests across the country were heard urging their congregations to vote against Obama.

Despite all the protests and occasional polls suggesting that Catholics would vote against Obama by a 3 to 1 margin, American Catholics ended up supporting Obama over Mitt Romney by two percent, according to exit polls analyzed by the nonprofit Faith in Public Life. Obama did see a drop in his share of Catholic supporters, but mostly among those who also fall into the "white male" category that represented Romney's strongest base.

"A diverse coalition of social justice Catholics, especially Latinos, helped tip the scales this year," said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life in a release. "While bishops doubled down against same sex marriage and demonized President Obama as an enemy of religious liberty, they were clearly out of touch with many Catholics. If the GOP has some reflecting to do about its inability to reach an increasingly multicultural country, Catholic leaders could benefit from similar soul searching when it comes to their own diverse flock."

With President Obama's victory over Mitt Romney, many pundits are already engaging in clichéd talk of "soul-searching" for the GOP. What they mean by this phrase differs depending on who says it: Pundits on the left as well as moderate, reform-oriented Republicans are claiming the party needs to move back to a pragmatist set of policies; tea partiers and others on the right, talk radio, and Fox News are claiming that Mitt Romney, like John McCain before him, was simply too moderate to win, and that only a true, principled conservative can lead the charge to victory.

But what Republicans really need to learn from Romney's defeat is not that their candidate was too weak or too moderate. They need to learn that their candidate was forced to adopt far more extreme policies than he previously held due to a primary process that enslaves pragmatism and electability to a rigid ideology. And at the heart of this rigid ideology is a conservative movement that's become the creature of the right-wing media.

Fox News is often described as little more than a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, the reverse is the case, with the Republican Party serving as unwitting puppets of the self-serving right-wing controversy machine. Fox News and the talk radio shock jocks across the country win whether or not conservatives are in power; these purveyors of political entertainment thrive under a Democratic president, perhaps even more so than under their preferred candidates. There's big money in controversy, and controversy is what the Glenn Becks of the world do best.

At some point, Republicans will need to wake up to the current state of affairs and realize they're being held hostage to a powerful, self-sustaining entertainment industry and that the interests of the party and the interests of Fox News are not one and the same.

Indeed, the spinoffs of this conservative movement/media behemoth can be seen far and wide as bloggers like Dean Chambers take up the mantle of "true conservatism" and begin telling Republicans only what they want to hear—even if that means twisting the polling data beyond anything remotely recognizable as the truth.

This is what happens when you let Democrats govern. . . California's credit rating has been slashed to junk-bond status, and citizens are advised to stock up for the not-too-far-off day when cigarettes and Botox become the hard currency of choice. At this stage, we couldn't give California back to Mexico.Ann Coulter, 2003

For the past few decades, making fun of California has been a favorite pastime of conservatives and, for that matter, just about everybody. We're either the Libertine State (Ganja! Gays!), the Nanny State (Eat your fruit before you get your Happy Meal toy!), or a redoubt of ecofascism. (AB 32: the horror!) But more than anything, we're just perpetually broke—the governmental equivalent of Annie Liebovitz or Mike Tyson. And regarding that Ann Coulter actually speaks the truth. Well, except for the part about blaming government by Democrats.

Last month, we took a look at 23 ballot measures worth watching in yesterday's election, from same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization to a voter ID amendment and anti-Obamacare initiatives. Here's a look at how those, and a few others, fared last night:

Same-sex marriage
For the first time ever, voters legalized same-sex marriage at the ballot box in Maryland, Maine, and Washington, as MoJo's Kate Sheppard and Adam Serwer report. The night was a huge loss for antigay groups led by the National Organization for Marriage, which also saw a ballot measure in Minnesota for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage go down in flames.

Pot legalization
As Josh Harkinson reports, Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana outright last night, followed an hour later by Washington. The question now is how far the federal government will go to crack down on the historic new laws. Another legalization measure in Oregon failed, in large part due to concerns that the law would have been overly broad. Meanwhile, voters legalized medical marijuana in Massachusetts but rejected it in Arkansas, and in Montana approved a measure that tightens restrictions on the state's existing medical marijuana laws.

Reporting from the Election Protection Coalition's phone center Tuesday, there were many sobering tales of long lines at polls, malfunctioning machines, and eligible voters being disenfranchised. Our own voter suppression map documented more than 50 trouble spots around the country. Those problems, magnified by Republican-led laws mandating government issued-photo ID, restricting voter registration and curtailing early voting, didn't swing the election to Mitt Romney as his Republican colleagues hoped

Nevertheless, the spectacle of long voting lines lasting late into the night because of problems at the polls is a shame in the wealthiest democracy in the world. There is no justifiable reason for elections being administered so poorly. But make no mistake, the impact of those problems fall disproportionately on voters of color, who are more likely to vote Democratic. A survey conducted by the AFL-CIO shows that black and Hispanic voters were more likely to enounter voting problems than whites:

This isn't just a problem of logistics: It's a moral issue. When someone has to step out of a voting line because they can't afford to take three or four hourse off of work just to go vote, they are being disenfranchised. The election may be over, but this is a problem that still needs to be solved. 

The race in California's 36th congressional district shouldn't have been close. Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack hung onto the seat for six terms (after gaining it in a special election when her husband Sonny Bono, who had previously held the seat, died). Her Democratic opponent, emergency room physician Raul Ruiz, is a political neophyte; plus he was recently confronted with a politically unsavory bit of his past: a tape of him reading a letter of support of Leonard Peltier, a Native American convicted of murdering two FBI agents in 1977.

But Ruiz won, by three percentage points, after counting went into overtime last night and today.

The district, which includes Riverside County and Coachella Valley, was reconfigured this year and now officially has more Democrats than Republicans. Almost half of the district's residents, and about a quarter of its voters, are Hispanic. Apparently these folks were not fond of Bono Mack's Romney-ish positions and style.

Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

Harry Reid, the Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate, couldn't have asked for a better night. Every incumbent Democratic senator up for re-election won; the party picked up a seat in Massachusetts (and perhaps another in Maine); and, assuming the results stand, won a race it had no business winning in deep-red North Dakota. But the big news from Tuesday isn't just that the Democrats held onto the majority, it's what that majority now looks like—much more progressive.

Four of the five most most liberal candidates in contested Senate races won on Tuesday (only Arizona Democrat Richard Carmona fell short), according to ideological ratings compiled by University of Chicago political scientist Boris Shor. Per Shor's rankings, Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy was the most liberal candidate in any contested race to win a Senate seat—more liberal than the progressive icon Elizabeth Warren, even. And Murphy replaced a centrist Independent Joe Lieberman. That's a big boost. Right behind Murphy is Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a member of the House Progressive Caucus who seems a sure bet to become something the retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl never was—a loud voice for progressive causes. Warren, the fourth-most liberal Democratic challenger (behind Hawaii's Mazie Hirono, who won easily) replaced Sen. Scott Brown, a moderate Republican. A political celebrity even before she entered the race on account of her work monitoring TARP, Warren will likely be handed an oversized role for an incoming lawmaker on issues like housing and banking. Here's a chart, by way of the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:

Ezra Klein/Washington PostEzra Klein/Washington Post

The biggest win for liberals came in Missouri, where Sen. Claire McCaskill, never a liberal favorite, managed to take down Rep. Todd Akin, the second-most conservative candidate on the ballot (only Wyoming's John Barrasso outdid him). Elsewhere, Democrats replaced a moderate Republican Sen. Richard Lugar with Rep. Joe Donnelly, whom Shor gives an ideological score of .03—just about dead-center. That's a slight shift, but it's something. The only real reversal of the trend came in Nebraska, where centrist Dem Ben Nelson was replaced by Deb Fischer, the most conservative challenger to win on Tuesday.

The Senate's shift to the left is consistent with two other notable developments on Tuesday night. As my colleague Adam Serwer noted, liberals scored big wins at the state level, going 4-for-4 in gay marriage initiatives (legalizing it in Washington state, Maryland, and Maine), decriminalizing marijuana in Colorado, and giving undocumented kids in Maryland in-state college tuition. And as a whole, Congress took a few steps closer to resembling the nation it serves—Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard will be the first practicing Hindu to serve in the House; Baldwin the first openly-gay Senator; Hirono the first Asian woman. For the first time, women comprise an entire state delegation (New Hampshire's), and a record number of women will join the 112th Congress.

President Barack Obama greets the crowd at his election-night headquarters with his family.

On Tuesday night, a country that once sold black people as property elected a black man to its highest office for a second time. Twice now, Virginia, the seat of the old Confederacy, has given its electoral votes to America's first black president. Although Barack Obama's presidency has often departed from the best moral instincts of American liberalism, from his dismal record on clemency to his stewardship of an unaccountable national security state, the fact of his presidency represents a triumph of American liberalism's ability to push the boundaries of what is possible. 

Liberalism's triumph in the 2012 election goes far beyond the reelection of the first black president of the United States:

  • When the next Senate is sworn in, it will include Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay member of America's upper house.
  • Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, setting up an inevitable conflict between the federal government's immoral war on drugs and an American electorate that is growing increasingly weary of it.
  • California voters declined to reject the death penalty, but they voted to raise taxes and limit the state's draconian "three strikes" law, which mandated automatic life imprisonment for individuals convicted of three felonies.
  • Marriage equality supporters notched wins in four states, for the first time winning at the ballot box instead of in the courts or state legislatures.
  • Maryland voters approved in-state tuition discounts for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.
  • Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, the most regressive symbols of the Republican agenda on women's rights, were defeated. 

The emerging Democratic majority, as Ruy Teixera once put it, seems to have emerged. But Obama owes that coalition, to an incredible degree, to the decision of Republicans to alienate every significant minority in the country.

Blind to their own identity politics, Republicans dismissed the concerns of gays and lesbians, and women and minorities, as wish lists from "special interests." The right killed George W. Bush's effort at immigration reform in 2006, and was then captured wholesale by immigration restrictionists whose naked hostility to Latinos meant that Obama could preside over more than a million deportations and still win the Hispanic vote in a landslide. American Muslims, who once overwhelmingly voted for Bush, became a toxic fixation for Republicans who began to regard them as a potential fifth column. Granted a majority in Congress with a mandate to heal a bleak American economy, Republicans chose to focus on restricting women's access to abortion and birth control. Eager to deny Obama any legislative accomplishments whatsoever, the GOP attempted to filibuster the repeal of the military's policy banning gays and lesbians from open service. Republicans shouldn't blame Romney for his defeat, not after they paved such a narrow, winding road to victory. 

Gleeful liberals. In trees.

"I just got back from OHIO, and all I got was FOUR MORE YEARS," screamed a stumbling but upbeat Obama campaigner.

Following across-the-board cable news projections that President Obama had won a second term, hundreds of supporters flooded the north side of the White House bordering Lafayette Square. There was a lot of whooping, jumping, and delighted liberals climbing trees. It was like the night Bin Laden got shot in the face, only with more partisanship and less bloodlust.

Obama supporters brought conga drums, life-size cardboard cut-outs of the Michelle, Barack, and Joe, and the standard placards and flags. Also, there was this doodle dog wearing an "OBAMA OR BUST!" white cape (according to smaller text on the dog-shawl, the animal was on a "cross-country tour").

Peppered throughout the celebrating crowd were the usual dissenting voices looking to be passively heard. There was that huddle of college-age males repeatedly shouting, "Allahu Akbar!!!" and then grinning at their implied jab at BHO. There was that one guy sermozing about Reaganomics literally through a bullhorn. And then there was a pair of grey-suited conservatives—name-checking Castro, Iranian mullahs, the works— who really did sound like they believed America had just reelected our Mars-traveling, gay-orgy-having, hurricane-making, nose-job-getting leftist overlord.

You know, the expected trolling amidst the partyin'.

And there was, of course, the obligatory pro-Obama mosh-pit:

The Wall Street Journal also has some good footage of the crowd of hundreds ("most of them young") at the White House on Election Night.

Aptyp_koK /ShutterstockAptyp_koK /ShutterstockCasino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, dropped more than $57 million on super-PACs in this election, becoming America's most famous conservative megadonors (besides the Kochs). So what did they get in return for their investment? A look at the groups they funded and the races they tried to influence shows that overall, their return on investment was about 40 percent: Only two out of every five races these super-PACs spent on had the outcome the outside spending group desired. The two biggest Adelson-backed losers were Republican presidental hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, to whose super-PACs the couple gave a total of $40 million. In the congressional races that Adelon-backed super-PACs spent on, the results were decidedly mixed. (A few of those races remain undecided.)

Here's the full tally of those races so far:

Adelson donation Super-PAC Candidate supported/opposed by super-PAC Outcome ROI
$20 million Winning Our Future Pro-Newt Gingrich (R, president) He lost Bad bet
$20 million  Restore Our Future Pro-Mitt Romney (R, president) He lost Bad bet
$5 million  Congressional Leadership Fund Anti-Betty Sue Sutton (D, House, Ohio) She lost Good bet
    Anti-Pete Gallego (D, House, Tx) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Kathleen Hochul (D, House, New York) She lost Good bet
    Anti-Brad Schneider (D, House, Illinois) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Patrick Kreitlow (D, House, Wisconsin) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Shelley Adler (D, House, New Jersey) She lost Good bet
    Anti-Lois Capps (D, House, California) She won Bad bet
    Anti-Leonard Boswell (D, House, Iowa) He lost Good bet
    Anti-John Barrow (D, House, Georgia) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Val Demings (D, House, Florida) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Krysten Sinema (D, House, Arizona) Undecided  
    Anti-Mike McIntyre (D, House, North Carolina) Undecided  
    Anti-Gary McDowell (D, House, Michigan) Undecided  
$5 million YG Action Fund Anti-Larry Kissell (D, House, North Carolina) He lost Good bet
    Anti-John Tierney (D, House, Massachusetts) He won Bad bet
    Anti-William Enyart (D, House, Illinois) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Mark Critz (D, House, Pennsylvania) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Scott Kreadle (R, House, North Carolina) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Lois Frankel (D, House, Florida) She won Bad bet
    Anti-John Barrow (D, House, Georgia) He won Bad bet
    Pro-Richard Hudson (R, House, North Carolina) He won Good bet
    Pro-Adam Kinzinger (R, House, Illinois) He won Good bet
    Anti-Mike McIntyre (D, House, North Carolina) Undecided  
    Pro-Allen West (R, House, Florida) Undecided  
$2 million Freedom PAC Pro-Connie Mack (R, Senate, Florida) He lost Bad bet
    Anti-Patrick Murphy (D, House, Florida) Undecided  
$1.5 million Independence Virginia PAC Pro-George Allen (R, Senate, Virginia) He lost Bad bet
$1 million Ending Spending Action Fund Anti-Barack Obama (D, president) He won Bad bet
    Pro-Mitt Romney (R, president) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Deb Fischer (R, Senate, Nebraska) She won Good bet
    Anti-Bob Kerrey (D, Senate, Nebraska) He lost Good bet
    Pro-Josh Mandel (R, Senate, Ohio) He lost Bad bet
    Anti-Sherrod Brown (D, Senate, Ohio) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Richard Carmona (D, Senate, Arizona) He lost Good bet
    Pro-Jeff Flake (R, Senate, Arizona) He won Good bet
    Pro-Ted Cruz (R, Senate, Texas) He won Good bet
    Anti-Tim Kaine (D, Senate, Virginia) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Jon Burning (R, Senate, Nebraska) He lost Good bet
    Pro-Connie Mack (R, Senate, Florida) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-George Allen (R, Senate, Virginia) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Richard Mourdock (R, Senate, Indiana) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Tommy Thompson (R, Senate, Wisconsin) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Dean Heller (R, Senate, Nevada) He won Good bet
$1 million Patriot Prosperity PAC Pro-Shmuley Boteach (R, House, New Jersey) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Joe Kyrillos (R, Senate, New Jersey) He lost Bad bet
$1 million Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition Pro-Allen West (R, House, Florida) Undecided  
$250,000 Conservative Renewal Pro-David Dewhurst (R, Senate, Texas) He lost Bad bet
$250,000 Texas Conservatives Fund Pro-David Dewhurst (R, Senate, Texas) He lost Bad bet
$190,000 Hispanic Leadership Fund Pro-Mitt Romney (R, president) He lost Bad bet
$57.7 million spent total       42% good bets, 58% bad bets

 Sources: Center for Public Integrity, Center for Responsive Politics, Sunlight Foundation

This article has been updated.