What has changed? The president was re-elected with fewer electoral votes than he had in 2008, an almost identical political composition in the House, a sliver of a gain in Senate seats, a knotted popular vote and a political map of America that shows vast expanses of red between coastal slivers of blue? No wonder Democrats take global warming seriously: they live by the oceans. But yesterday, I think, brought a sea change of a subtler kind. In a country where millions of people are really hurting, voters rejected the Republican’s punitive economic alternative and stayed the course. We do need real change, but not the kind being offered. And we saw a more generous America in other ways: gay marriage won a referendum for the first time ever – in Maine and Maryland – and is leading in Minnesota and Washington; the Tea Party’s most frightening candidates – Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana – lost in heavily Republican states; and Obama’s huge support among immigrant voters of all kinds will lead, I hope, to kinder and more effective immigration policies. (One person told me yesterday that Asians vote overwhelmingly Democratic because the evangelical lectures on “family values” so offend them.)
What now? I think the pundits need a rest. We have had enough of scrutinizing Obama’s impenetrable soul and parsing Romney’s shifting principles. The question the president faces remains: how do you reach across the aisle to folks who want nothing to do with you? With neither Romney nor Ryan carrying his home state, Americans signaled that they are tired of hard-right intransigence.