I believe it was a victory in the sense that many issues were brought to the forefront of the discussion. Obama was right in framing this election as being about the kind of future we want to have as a nation, and it was like a breath of fresh air to watch issues that systematically get swept under the carpet in elections finally got a hearing in the court of public opinion.
As a public choice scholar, I view things differently. Unlike some of my colleagues, I do not take the view that most voters do not understand the issues underpinning a major election, though I recognize, of course, that some are rationally ignorant about the spatial positioning of candidates. In a campaign as long-drawn out as in 2012, and especially at the presidential level, voters would have to be hermits cut off from all media communication not to understand the salience issues. The presidential election primarily focused on the economy. The rest was a minor sideshow, exciting to those with a social agenda, but ultimately irrelevant to the average Joe and Jane voter, understandably anxious about the economic future confronting themselves and their immediate families.
This election was a victory for progressives because of their consistent efforts to reform the nation and improve the economy. Barack Obama embodies these principles as they are the soul and spirit of the every day lives of Americans. We as a people should acknowledge how much the progressives have benefited from the election.
I believe that progressives won a significant victory in the 2012 election because not only did President Obama win reelection, but a number of progressive initiatives passed around the country, such as affirming gay marriage in a number of states and legalizing recreational use of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. Also, Democrats gained control of the Senate.
There will be as much "progress" in the next 4 years with Obama, as there was in the first 4, that is to say little to none except for the worse, as always. Progressives thinking 4 more years with Obama will be beneficial to them will be sadly dissapointed, ESPECIALLY when Obamacare goes into full effect in 2014. When that happens, and the true nature of his healthcare reform is felt, people will see what their hope for change got them, you can count on it.