The past year has been rough. Small businesses are struggling. It’s hard to get ahead. Everything is expensive. Crime rates are skyrocketing. Schools nationwide have tried to exclude parents from important decisions about what their children are taught, sometimes even making it a criminal act to resist them. Employers and employees have been subject to an unlawful vaccine mandate.

It’s easy to feel anger, despair, or discouragement. Conservatives, in particular, might lament where the country is going. For people who care about strong families, freedom, and faith, it can seem like a bleak time.

But things aren’t as bleak as they seem. In fact, conservatives should celebrate some pretty big victories won in the past year.

1. We got a victory for the First Amendment

California tried to bully nonprofit organizations into disclosing the identities of their private donors. For years, the state ratcheted up pressure to do so — despite resistance from the organizations. Even though California promised to protect the privacy of this donor data, the data were repeatedly hacked and leaked — with a quite predictable result. Donors to conservative nonprofit groups faced death threats, harassment, and intimidation and even received pornographic letters from leftist activists and other professional harassment addicts.

California’s tyrannical practice of requiring donor disclosures had to be stopped. Fortunately for the First Amendment, the Supreme Court stopped it. In Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, the court recognized the “deterrent effect” these disclosures had on those making donations and decided to end them. In doing so, the court reaffirmed more clearly than ever before the centrality and sacredness of the First Amendment in U.S. jurisprudence.

That’s a win not just for California nonprofit organizations but for everyone.

2. We got major wins in the Virginia elections

Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is a political outsider who won a wild come-from-behind victory in a blue state. His election proves conservatives — but more importantly, a majority of voters overall — don’t want nonsense Democratic policies. They’re fed up, and people who are fed up are a powerful political force.

Voters don’t want leftist race politics in our schools. They’re tired of being excluded from the classroom, tired of the government interfering with their family lives. Virginia proves all of that.

Voters want common sense. They want real candidates to run with real solutions to existing problems. That makes Democrats nationwide nervous because it’s a great sign for Republicans in 2022.

3. We got a Supreme Court hearing that was years in the making

The December Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court hearing was a triumph for pro-life advocates all over the country. The hearing was hard-won. Former President Donald Trump spent four years preparing for a case of this sort, and his work finally paid off.

The case could change the legal landscape, but regardless of its outcome, the hearing itself is a monumental achievement. Conservatives have fought long and hard for Supreme Court justices to interpret the Constitution faithfully, so the fact they’re hearing this case at all shows how successful conservatives have been. The court knows that Roe v. Wade was legislation from the bench. We finally have a chance to undo or modify its legacy.

4. We witnessed incredible charity and goodness in the wake of the fall of Afghanistan

The Biden administration let Kabul fall without preparing our Afghan or international allies for our withdrawal. People who worked alongside our military to help protect our nation were suddenly left behind in grave danger with no way to escape. We even left behind the biometric data of more than 1 million Afghan allies, which quickly fell into Taliban hands to guide kill squads.

Even though President Joe Biden oversaw an unprecedented humanitarian and political crisis of his own making, Americans knew how to fill the gap. They stepped up to help those who had helped us for so long. They selflessly provided aid and support to the tens of thousands of Afghan allies resettled here in the United States. Churches and community leaders across the nation mobilized to do what their government couldn’t.

5. We finally saw voters start waking up

One of the greatest victories of all may very well be that voters are waking up to reality. Voters are smart. You can’t fool them for long. Biden’s polling accordingly continues to hit new lows — and, strikingly, most of the people who’ve changed their minds about Biden are the swing voters and moderates who put him into office in the first place.

Voters see he is presiding over inflation, rising crime, and increasing racial tensions. They see he is ignoring chaos at the border, has repeatedly offended or mishandled our closest global allies, and has failed to end the pandemic — one of his key campaign promises.

It can be easy for conservatives to feel defeated right now, but it’s important to maintain perspective. The U.S. is a great nation, full of people who remain committed to its founding principles. Conservatives won big in some important ways in 2021, and most of our victories this year point to greater success in 2022.

Timothy Head is executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition.