First, USA Today map of the election results as a whole.
So much for all the Red State v. Blue State simplistic baloney. Senate races and presidential races tend to mask the real complexities of politics in the country.
Yes, some blue states "got bluer" as Northeast states that favored moderate Rs decided they needed to cast a protest vote against the current R leadership. But as the USA today results map shows, you have a lot of intermixed state delegations.
Second, look at the USA Today map of what districts flipped.
(Same URL but hit the "switchers" tab)
Few things better validate the Dean "50 State strategy," or demonstrate that the DLC strategy of speaking only to the white suburban middle class has come to its end as a viable strategy (if it were ever viable).
Post 2004, the rather simplistic notion of "Red States" in the south and center of the country and "Blue states" on the densely populated costs became conventional wisdom. Look at the pattern of pick ups. More than half the pick ups came from supposedly red "heartland" states. Also of note, districts in NY state and Ohio that "should" have gone blue based on the "blue gets bluer, red gets redder" equation stayed red.
Finally, look at this story on the importance of the youth vote in this and upcomming elections.
We are at the beginning of the biggest demographic wave to alter the electorate since the boomers came of age in the late 1960s.
My very brief takeaways:
1) The popular wisdom that we are "a nation divided" and "increasingly at war with each other" blah blah is nonesense. It is an invention of demogogues who profit from such divisions, expounded by a sound machine devoted to the success of people and parties over principles, propogated by lazy herd beasts of the mass media, and aggravated by the media concentration that reduces news analysis to a handful of simplistic platitudes.
2) In fact, as my own personal experiences lead me to believe, Americans have both deep divisions and much in common. We are a diverse nation, but still one nation. We saw this after 9/11. We saw it after Katrina. For every balthering idiot or demogogoue who rushed to appropriate the tragedy for his or her political agenda, we saw ten thousand Americans from every walk of life reach out to a fellow American. Progressive anti-globalization activists worked hand-in-hand with anti-abortion Evangelicals to bring aid and comfort to those dispossed.
3) These commonalities do not obscure our deep differences. But the genius of the United States has been that it provides a way for us to resolve them together as a nation and remain whole.
The leadership of the Republican party forgot that. They sought to create a "permanent Republican majority" that followed the leadership with the same unquestioning loyalty that once marked Stalin's Russia. Conservatives that remained true to principles rather than loyal to party were cast aside, or required to subordinate their objections for the good of preserving the "permanent Republican majority." Debates on critical matters of public policy and affairs of state became internal debates of the Republican leadership within itself. Final decisions of the Republican Party Central Committee were announced by a media sound machine loyal to the leadership rather than to principle. Dissenters, even from within the Republican Party, were silenced and punished for their "disloyalty."
What is worse, members of the Democratic Leadership Council were equally guilty and complicit in this effort to divide the nation and convert the process of civic discussion and consensus building into one of disenfranchisement for those outside the party system. Even before the Republican majority came to power in 1994, the DLC conceived a strategy of trageting primarily white middle-class suburban voters, the so-called "Reagan Democrats," "yuppies," and "soccer moms," by focusing almost exclusively on certain social issues -- such as gun control -- at the expense of any coherent economic policy designed to genuinely empower the people of this country. The DLC courted special interest blocks and traditional constituencies through a combination of legislative bribes and buying off leaders within communities who might "rock the boat."
In the meanwhile, the social programs of the Great Society addressing poverty and equal rights suffered attrophy and constant attack from numerous quarters. They failed to evolve with the changing needs of the times. As people accross the country looked for real solutions for how to provide quality education, health care, and economic prosperity for all Americans -- including overcoming the continuing, pervasive effects of more than one hundred years of legal segregation and repression of African Americans -- the DLC remained tethered to old solutions and old approaches by its strategy of targeting only specific segments of American society and propitiating those wedded to the old solutions and old power structures. This form of disenfrachisement was no more consonant with Democracy than the effort to divide us by geography or "religious values."
Even more outrageously, the DLC continued to play into this devisive and ultimately self-defeating strategy of geographic and interest disunity. The Democratic Party simply abandoned entire regions and states as "hopeless." The DLC insisted on focusing resources on a handful of "battleground" states and races and offering no new framework or solution.
Following the disastrous defeat of 2004, however, the Democratic party began to change. The "netroots" began activily leveraging the power of the internet to communicate directly with one another outside the confines of party control. The 50 state strategy depended on enabling new, local activists to forge local innovations and solutions around local issues. A new generation, comfortable with the decentralized and flat heirarchies that have marked "new economy" companies and sucessful social innovators began to reform the Democratic party from the bottom up, rather than top down.
Sadly, more often than not, the DLC and interests closely aligned with the DLC have resisted these changes. To the extent they saw power in the internet, it was as an unfathomable "money machine" that could produce and aggregate small contributions. Even into the summer, when it became clear that national frustration with the Republican leadership had created a genuine opportunity throughout America to change course, numerous DLC memebrs and supporters insisted on trying to reallocate resources away from the 50-state strategy of engaging all Americans and seeking to recruit only the handful believed persuadable to undergo an empty ritual of voting.
But it did not happen. The 50-state strategy worked. Geography and religion proved less a deciding factor than the willingness to engage in genuine outreach and discussion. In a time of national frustration and paralysis, a new generation of voters and candidates tipped the balance. Once again, a party leadership that sought to win through division and disenfranchisement learned that the American people are neither idiotic sheep nor pavlovian dogs that will drool at the ringing of such empty slogans as "tax and spend" or "cut and run."
Whether the new Democratic party will continue to adjust to the times, and whether the Republican party can change tack again, remains to be seen. The real differences that exist still remain, just as the real bonds that unite us still remain. But a new generation now lies poised to make its own mark. A political leadership that refuses to recognize that changing reality and continues to try to govern through the old appeals to geographic divisiveness or special interest politics will not long remain in power.