As the dust settles after Election Day, it's fair to say that Republicans deserved the thrashing we received. Unfortunately, some good Republicans (Colorado's Bob Schaffer, to name one) lost undeservedly, and some embarrassments (Alaska Sen. Ted "7 Felonies and a Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens) won undeservedly.
Only time will tell if America will get what it expects from Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. We know, however, that many are destined for disappointment if only because so many expectations of Obama are irreconcilable with each other.
Polls indicate the public still desires fiscally conservative government and that Republicans were punished for failing to deliver on what should be our bedrock issue. To Republicans who are frustrated that voters would turn to the party of even-bigger government, the message is clear: voters want contrast, not a watered-down version of the Democrats' agenda.
There are two parties: the party of freedom and the party of government. Democrats enthusiastically advocated government solutions to the economy, health care, energy and poverty. Republicans, too often, seemed unconvinced that freedom-based solutions would work and unprepared to explain how.
For Republicans, the good news is that they can now escape the shadow of George W. Bush, Tom Delay, et al, and that the public now knows that Democrats are firmly in charge come what may.
For Democrats, the bad news is that they can no longer blame everything on President Bush (although they and their media allies will no doubt try to make Bush the Hoover to Obama's FDR) and that they will now receive credit or blame for both things they can control and those they cannot.
It's easy to second guess John McCain's campaign, but give credit where it's due: at a time when as many as 91% of voters said the country was on the wrong track and 67% disapproved of President Bush, McCain managed to convince 46% of voters that he was better equipped to be president than the charismatic candidate of "hope" and "change."
Now we enter a new reality. During campaigns, the public compares candidates to each other, but after the election, the new president is judged against perfect 20/20 hindsight. Remember that in 2003, more than 70% of the public, 77% of the Senate, and 68% of Congress backed President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. The public - and many politicians - can turn on a dime when the going gets tough, but the president owns his decisions and their consequences.