....or in other words, what is a conservative to do?
In essence, do not panic, do not get cynical, do not get jaded.
Election Day is not a day to get bitter or angry. At the end of any Election Day the people made their decision. Read that again. Savor it. The people, every eligible person regardless of color, creed or gender made their decision for their leaders in a peaceful manner. No violence, no purges. That is something that has been unheard of for most of history and in most of the world. We are far too desensitized to the fact that we do, in reality, have a great system. So don't get bitter or cynical on Election Day. It's simply not becoming to members of a democratic society where the individuals have remarkable access to their leaders.
But onto the plight of conservatives. Yeah I know, it hurts. It pained me to see a very liberal, most likely the most liberal in a generation, candidate with little/no political experience and questionable political judgment to become the most powerful politician in the nation. It pains me that we will probably be forced to remember him in the same way people think of JFK or Reagan (of which there are none around today, as Justin pointed out). And it pains me to see his ridiculously unpragmatic, naive and harmful (though well intentioned) policies quite possibly harm this country. It really does.
But as John F Kennedy (by far the greatest of the Democrats) put it, "When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters--one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity."
There are definite upsides to winning major elections. In particular controlling the Senate, House, and White House. For one you basically set the agenda for all things political, economic or judicial. This is the point to any legislative party. And this is obviously what is a huge disappointment to conservatives. There is no doubt that the Obama Presidency, and the Reid-Pelosi control of Congress is the most liberal grouping of politicians that has come around in a while. They will be able to pass a lot of bad legislation, legislation that makes us cringe. And it will be our uphill battle to try to mitigate whatever we can.
But there are definite downsides to winning major elections. There is a HUGE difference between governing and winning elections. Ask Bush. He was a great campaigner, raised huge amount of funds, could stump well and could command a formidable election machine (sound familiar to anyone?). But as an executive he was sub-par (though granted a lot went right that has not been acknowledged in my mind).He failed to articulate the message well as an executive (something he didn't have a problem with on the campaign trail) and failed to spend his political capital wisely. And this is someone who was a governor and had a good amount of political experience. With great advisors who knew how the political game works (for instance Axelrod and Plouffe). But governance is a lot harder. There is no shot clock to run out. Slogans don't work and problems can't be buried in the media. After the first 100 days, there is a tall order for the Obama-Biden administration to carry out. A struggling economy, a dissatisfied populace, a dangerous foreign world and many other major issues to sort out. A speech will not suffice.
And just as there are downsides to losing there are upsides to losing as well. As Newt Gingrich once said, "It is a lot easier being a minority party." There are no responsibilities beyond political posturing. With Democratic control of the White House and Congress, and with Bush out of office, there is little for the Democrats to blame their problems on when they undoubtedly come. So look as this as a mandate to the GOP. Change or die. This is 4 years to retool the message, throw out the old guard, dump the pork, bring in some fresh, diverse politicians, drop the shrill rhetoric and articulate real change and real hope for America.
It's time for a change. It's time for the GOP to wake up. This can be done. Ask David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and Margerat Thatcher in England. Ask the Scottish National Party in Scotland. Ask Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein in Ireland. Ask Yuschenko in the Ukraine. Ask Steve Harper in Canada. Parties can and do use the "off time" to reform and grow stronger. This is the time to do it.
So take a deep breath and realize that yes, America faces some hard times. But our best times are never behind us. We must never let ourselves become bitter and pessimistic. We must never give into the idea that is circulating in some conservative circles that this country is on an unstoppable track of leftism. We must continue to cheerfully fight for what we know is the best for this country.
As Winston Churchill once said,"Come let us go forward."