Well, the party is over in more than one way.
For the Democrats, the party that followed their big election win will be over as a new day and a lot of hard work resumes.
For the GOP, well, their party is over as well, and their Party may be over, too...or not. More after the jump...
A few stray thoughts occur about what happens now with a Senate that a has more firmly entrenched Democratic majority (and hopefully fewer aisle-crossers) but a House that is still in Republican hands with a large teabagging minority.
Three things occur to this poor little Democrat at least.
First, the Republicans will not cooperate. There is no incentive at the primary level for them to do so since moderates at that level have found themselves trampled by their mouth-breathing brethren. It often happens that Republican establishment politicians have to step in to keep the teabaggers out of the running (but not out of the primaries as voters, something that they can't prevent). That can't be good for the party, but it is an opportunity for the Democrats to move Republicans out of the party and, if not into the Democratic camp, at least the Independent camp. It is why redistricting and voter suppression have become the last, best options for Republicans. (Blanketing airways with negative advertising is actually not nearly as effective--or rather no longer as effective. Why? Because we no longer live in a "controlled" media age. This is ironically the upside of the usual complaint about "digital balkanization"--Internet/cable TV users who hew close to political sources of information that preach to the choir.)
Second, Obama should not be seeking to cooperate. There are no benefits to be had. I think by temperament he prefers cooperation to warring. This coincidentially dovetails with the Bob Shrum-infused, inferiority complex of the Democrats that has traditionally pushed them to tack to the center. Polling and voting reveals, however, that tacking right just doesn't pay the same dividends anymore. Lean left on the right issues, and I think the Democratic Party has an ever brighter future as hardcore Republicans age out. Personally, reproductive rights has made a huge comeback (though I hate to phrase it that way), and even medical marijuana legalization, and gay marriage/civil unions have shown real strength. There are more issues that can be addressed, although, again, the art is in the selection. I'm a gun control advocate, but I still see no hope in addressing this issue comprehensively: the return on the investment is just not there. But immigration can pay huge dividends, and Obama would do far better to show more support for unions--whose memberships now finally get it about where their bread is buttered (something I think lost on a large swath during much of Reagan era when white blue-collar workers voted Republican). Regardless of issue, Obama will see no cooperation from the Congress and, I think, as a lame duck president, he will have no choice but to resort to the very tactics that a Republican administration would adopt: recess appointments, executive orders, and, yes, even signing statements. The key issue here is that Obama must continue to play the "I'm here to get things done" card, and the "if I must bypass Congress to do so, then so be it" card.
Third, Obama really can't afford to act like a lame duck. Traditionally, 2nd term presidents (with split Congresses) are re-cast into the role of foreign policy administrators. For Obama, this would be a huge mistake. If he cares about a political philosophy taking root based on his presidency, then he needs to start his campaign now to see that happen. Hate on George W. Bush as much as we may, he had one thing right, which, I think, Obama didn't: the "campaign" for presidency and party never ends. And with the corrosive effects of Citizens United on display, despite our win, and future ratcheted-up voter suppression efforts by Republican-dominated states (see point 1 on why, again, at top), Obama will have his work cut out for him ensuring that Democrats stay on top and, I think, more importantly, draw more independents and moderate Republicans to their causes.
Make no mistake: to preserve his legacy and his wins will depend in part on his now going with hammer and tongs after Citizens United-inspired organizations and voter suppression groups and administrations "friendly" to such. If anything, now is as good a time as any to unleash the Department of Justice on such organizations.
Ok, Ok, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. There's still the climate change, nuclear proliferation, the deficit, etc. Yeah, they're there. But I'll speak out of turn here. Those are real issues with real consequences. But they are also issues that to so many--foolishly or not--don't have enough voter "tactility." I recycle, but am I stopping climate change? I hate nuclear weapons, but is North Korea aiming its missiles at my backyard? I closed my Bank of America accont, but does that make any sort of difference to a trillion dollar deficit? You see, I know these are good causes, but I don't "touch and feel" them in the same way as I do, well: gay friends, I know, who can't marry; immigrants with whom I work who fear deportation; cancer sufferers in my family who can't medicate properly; unemployed friends who lack health insurance (in some ways, that's a much bigger issue for many of them than not having a job!), and so forth. Obama has to go to town on these issues if only to keep reducing the Republican pool of voters!
In the end, for Obama, there really is no choice but--and frankly it will be smart politics--to avoid compromises and instead--to put it as bluntly as possible--overrun or wear down the opposition.
Folks, politics is a blood sport--and, sometimes, so is governing. My hope is Obama understands that for the sake of his party, the country, and our common humanity.