Election Day 2017 went spectacularly well for Democrats. Usually, not much is at stake off-year elections; outside Virginia and New Jersey, the election this year was no exception. But Democrats did win by a landslide. Yippee!
“Yippee,” that is, more in the sense of “so what?” than “hooray.”
The problem is not that the election could have turned out better. It turned out as well as it could have; in almost all cases, the better candidates won. More importantly, Trump lost. He lost because the consensus view within the chattering classes was that the vote, in Virginia especially, was a referendum on him. Saying so made it so.
The danger now is that saying so will also vindicate an idea that might as well be hard-wired into the minds of leading Democrats: that the way forward in 2018 and beyond is to reconstitute the Democratic Party as it was before its 2016 defeat, allowing only for cosmetic changes in the party bureaucracy
With Trump being Trump, it is possible, even likely, that, by going that route, Democrats will do as well next year. They might even do well enough to regain control of the House and Senate, and of many State Houses. If that happens, it will be a victory of sorts; a victory that will warrant a cynical so what?, not a heartfelt hooray.
Genuinely progressive down ticket victories could change the calculus somewhat. At this point, it is difficult to determine how much of that there was last…