(Cross posted from Doubting Tommaso)
For me, the election of Barack Obama was, kind of anti-climactic. After having hoped for a Democratic victory for 8 years it was odd to find myself at the end of the night playing "guess that 80's sitcom theme song" with my friends*. Taken as a whole though it was pretty impressive to witness the election of the first black president, the first non-southern Congressional majority since Reconstruction, and the first solidly liberal government since LBJ.
It is certainly possible to win a narrow victory based on personal appeal without winning a mandate. Bush discovered when he tried to privatize Social Security. But that's not what we witnessed. The Democratic victory was a rejection of Bush, yes. But it was also a ratification of the Democratic majorities in Congress who for the last 2 years have sent bill after bill to the white house only to see them shot down. The expansion of the Democratic majorities is a positive vote for Democratic leadership on the environment, the health care crisis, and foreign policy.
Though Americans voted for a clear direction on those issues last night the rickety American political system will make it very difficult for Democrats to institute their agenda. The filibuster - contrived to protect minorities - may allow a recalcitrant and unpopular Republican rump to endanger our environment, our economy, and our nations fiscal standing. We're only going to get what the 4 least conservative Republicans approve of. And that's why I don't feel like the pressure has let up after this election: the fight has only just begun.
I remember 4 years ago, reeling from a Democratic defeat** talking a friend who was of the Republican persuasion. I told him frankly that both sides had gotten their chance to present their plans and that - having won both elected branches - the Republicans won the right to institute their plans relatively unhindered. Soon enough, I told him, we'd have a nice long look at what Republican governance is like and we wouldn't have to debate if it would be good or bad, it'll be self-evident.
Well, you know how that turned out. Last night, the Democrats got their turn. I think they'll do well, but in 2 years we won't have to debate whether the Democrat's platform is good or bad: it'll be clear. Like most Democrats I'm pretty confident the next several years will reflect well on our platform. Let's finally see if we're right!
*For the record, Lydia and I blew away Zack and Lisa.
**A defeat that wasn't nearly as resounding as the one Republicans experienced last night.
(Map courtesy of Mark Newman)