Republicans have a lot to be happy about. So, I guess, does anybody else who's upset with President Obama, Democrats, and the federal government. Some of us have a lot to be worried about after last week's election, though. And at the moment, I'm not seeing any silver linings.
Just for instance: Come January, Republicans will be in an even better position to block Obama's appointments and nominations. Approval of the Keystone Pipeline looks almost certain – not to mention other initiatives that the fossil-fuel industry wants. We'll likely get bigger defense budgets – and lots of hearings and investigations.
Republicans in Congress are still a fractious group, obviously. And on some issues, they'll have to compromise with Democrats to get anything done. But Democrats have their own divisions. And with 2016 elections looming, some of them seem so spooked that they may cave on things like protecting the Affordable Care Act.
Also unknown: whether Obama will move further to the right. Plenty of people are insisting that he learn from the election and change his ways. Is he spooked, too?
As Paul Krugman said in the Times on Friday, though, winning doesn't mean you're right. On inequality, labor, infrastructure, public health, and civil rights, liberals are more closely aligned with the interests of low- and middle-income Americans than Republicans are.
Nor should it be hard to convince voters that climate change is a matter of crucial national and international security, human rights, fiscal prudence, health, and species survival. And that Republicans' approach to foreign policy is both dangerous and fiscally irresponsible. (Among the many serious results of last week's election: John McCain is likely to head the Senate Armed Services Committee.)
In "Running from Obama Hurt Dems," on the online news site The Root, Peniel Joseph lashed out at the Democratic Party's "Obama Avoidance Syndrome."
"Rather than join forces and extol the president's leadership on domestic issues, especially with regard to unemployment, health care, and the environment," Joseph wrote, "Democrats abandoned the president and, in the process, allowed Republicans to successfully shape this year's message."
"2016 will indeed be a referendum on the Obama administration and the Democratic Party's willingness to embrace the president's legacy," Joseph said. "If, as they did this year, Democrats cut and run rather than stand and fight, we will surely see a Republican president inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017."
Democrats "must rediscover their political identity," Joseph wrote. "Obama's call for hope and change in 2008 helped to revive the party's liberal and progressive wing. In passing the Affordable Care Act, Obama succeeded in institutionalizing the signal policy achievement of our era. The inability of the entire party, now, to run on that signal achievement stands out as a failure of imagination, character, and integrity."
This country hasn't rejected progressive values. Same-sex marriage is legal in 32 states. Last week, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota – all red states – approved boosting the minimum wage. Voters in Florida came close to legalizing medical marijuana, approving it by 57.6 percent. (Legalization required 60 percent approval.)
We can wish that Obama had been stronger during the midterm campaign, that he had been the fiery crusader he was as a candidate in 2008. We can wish that Democrats had joined with him and reminded voters what Democrats stand for – and what a Republican victory could bring. But that's almost irrelevant now.
What Obama and the Democrats in Congress do in the next two years is not irrelevant, though. They can do what they've done in the past two years. Or they can unite around the progressive issues that got Obama elected in 2008, remind Americans of how closely their own goals align with those of traditional Democrats, and seek common ground with moderate Republicans if they can find any common ground. (And if they can find any moderate Republicans.)