After $6 billion in spending that made for one of the nastiest campaigns since the days of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, we find ourselves in essentially the same place today as we were Tuesday morning with Barack Obama still in the White House, the Republicans holding a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Democrats holding a slight edge in the Senate.
A couple of things the Grand Old Party needs to keep in mind:
You can’t win a national election by dismissing the “47 percent” who receive some sort of government benefit and tailoring your campaign primarily to well-off white men. And pandering to the more extreme elements of the conservative base of the sort that gave rise to the tea party is a recipe for electoral disaster.
The Republicans had a net loss of seats in the House, but might have taken control of the Senate were it not for the anti-women rants of people like Missouri’s Todd Akin and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock. The ultimate irony for the right is that the much-maligned Harry Reid will continue to preside over the upper chamber, when just two years ago he was considered ripe for defeat in his home state until Nevada Republicans opted for a tea partier over a more moderate candidate.
Mitt Romney was gracious in defeat early Wednesday morning, and Obama was his usual eloquent self, urging unity in the wake of a bruising campaign. But whether there is any real change from the partisanship that has characterized Washington for the past two years remains to be seen.
Another sign of a changing electorate: Ballot measures legalizing gay marriage were approved in Maine and Maryland, and initiatives allowing recreational use of marijuana got the OK in Colorado and Washington state. (Massachusetts took a further step in that direction by approving the use of marijuana for medical purposes.)