Two states legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
A record 20 women will be serving in the U.S. Senate.
And a record number of new Asian-American and Latino representatives were elected to Congress.
All this would have been unthinkable a generation ago, as would the idea the country would elect, let alone re-elect, its first black president.
Tuesday's election showed that the United States is redefining what it means to be an American, some political and social observers say: The country is less conservative than popular belief suggests. It's no longer the same America. The nation has arrived at a "new normal."
Others say the election showed that America is "fractured" and even more "racially polarized" than many people believed, while some analysts caution against reading too much into any one election.
Americans may have awakened Wednesday to the same balance of power in Washington -- same president, same divided Congress -- but in many ways they also woke up to the sense that things outside the Beltway might never be quite the same.
The America that gave the president a second term and ushered in a string of cultural firsts was formed at a time of dramatic changes that were starting to take root just around the time Obama was born in 1961.
"The '60s culture wars won, and that's a legacy that we're now seeing," said Julian Zelizer, political historian at Princeton University and CNN contributor.
"Doing away with taboos" -- about race, sexuality, drugs and gender roles -- accompanied a rejection of government control over sex and drugs, particularly marijuana, he said.
"Most of America, even in the red states, moved in a more liberal direction, even in areas where they're conservative on taxes and government spending."
Now, more and more children of the '60s have kids of their own who are not only old enough to vote but who are politically active, reaching out to other new voters and reshaping the political spectrum, he said.
So the same growing population that wants government to stay out of same-sex relationships, marijuana use and contraception also wants a racially inclusive government, analysts said.
That's where Democrats have succeeded and Republicans lag far behind.
It's a reality Republican analyst Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor, described as he was absorbing the "beating" the GOP took Tuesday.
There is "kind of a 1950s America that we lost," Castellanos said. "It's an old way of looking at the world."
Inclusiveness vs. polarization
The blaring political lesson of Election 2012 wasn't lost on either side. Winning among white men was once the key to victory. Now, relying on them is the key to failure.
But what it tells the country about itself is more complicated.
"Increasing numbers of Americans are moving toward a much more inclusive sense of what an American is," said Clara Rodriguez, professor of sociology at Fordham University in New York.
"The earlier definition of an American, which was so prevalent in our media of the 1940s, '50s, '60s and to a certain extent the '70s, has given way to a definition that reflects the great diversity of America today.
"The president, and his fabulous family and relationship with his wife and children -- those are also examples of inclusiveness."
It's a way of thinking that's permeating society, she says. After 20 years as a professor, Rodriguez is now seeing college students more interested in each other's ethnic backgrounds than ever.
"Students feel that they have something to learn from each other," she said.
Democrats have succeeded at demonstrating that inclusiveness, analysts said.
CNN's Fareed Zakaria says the election highlighted the "embrace of diversity -- in every sense," which "is America's great gift to the world."
In a column for the Washington Post, he wrote, "What the world saw this week was a picture of America at its best: edgy, experimental, open-minded -- and brilliantly diverse."
Writer David Simon, a former journalist and well-known TV producer, didn't mince words.
"The country is changing," he wrote on his blog.
"America will soon belong to the men and women ... who can comfortably walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that ... there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions.
"Those who relied on entitlement and division to command power will either be obliged to accept the changes, or retreat to the gated communities from which they wish to wax nostalgic and brood on political irrelevance."
The 2010 Census confirmed