It shouldn't be surprising to hear media conservatives claim either that even though the Democrats captured Congress on Tuesday, it wasn't really the Democrats that won, it was the Republicans that lost, or that the new Democratic members are more conservative than liberal, so it was really conservatism that triumphed, blah, blah, blah.
But let's look at the House results first. Here is the state and regional distribution of new Democratic seats as of this writing;*
Northeast: 10 = PA(4); NY(2); NH(2); CT(2)
Pacific West: 1 = CA(1)
Mountain West: 3 = AZ(2); CO(1)
Mid-West: 7 = KS(1); IN(3); IA(1); MN(1); OH(1)
South: 5 = FL(2); NC(1); KY(1); TX(1)
While I can't claim thorough knowledge of each and every one of these incoming members, I'm going to speculate that for all 26 of them, they were the less conservative contender in each race. So the Democratic victory was in every sense, a triumph, however temporal, of progressivism, or moderation, or liberalism, however you want to call it, over conservatism.
It is worth conceding that the Foley seat in Florida and the DeLay seat in Texas were cases in which the Republican candidate was forced out of office too late in the game to re-nominate and put on the ballot a replacement candidate; in the Texas case in particular, the Republican was a write-in if I understand it, making the challenge for the GOP there particularly difficult.
And it's also worth noting that in one PA and one NY race, the Republican incumbent was involved in some sort of woman-abusing, domestic dispute issue, relegating the effect of policy issues in those races to the back burner. Of course, since the GOP once trumpeted the supreme importance of "character" in politics, than the fact that the GOP candidates lost on the basis of "character" issues shouldn't take away from the Democratic successes there.
But in any event, with close to a third of the new Democrats coming from the Northeast, this election contributed to the on-going geographical realignment between the parties, as the Northeast becomes more Democratic and the South more Republican.
Meanwhile, Democrats made at last modest gains throughout the country, including the South and Mountain West where Republicans have been the strongest.
Much can be said for the U.S. Senate. There's no question that the Democratic victor in each case will be more liberal than the soon-to-be-ex Senator, even in PA where one anti-abortion Senator replaces another.
But even beyond ideology, the Democratic victories and victors in Montana, VA, and PA are particularly heartening. In each case, what I would call the politics of seriousness and reason triumphed over the politics of corruption, empty-suitism, and malevolent ideology, respectively. In their own way, Burns, Allen and Santorum were each symbols of what ails the American polity: Big Money; Banality; and Religious Fundamentalism. And their successors promise to be voices of moderation and plain-spokenness, which considering what the country has gone through for the last 12, if not the last 40 years, will be a welcome change, even if that change is not a textbook or talk-radio charicature of liberalism.
So, if Republicans want to claim that their cause has not suffered, so be it. If they want to stay in denial, they're welcome to it, now that their hands have been removed from at least some of the levers of power. But what I anticipate the next two years will show is that the conservative dream of remaking the world and USA in its own image will have been ship-wrecked if not irreparably halted.
*Media reports indicate 28-29 new Democratic members, so I'm a couple short here. I didn't count the new Democrat in Vermont, who replaces Independent Bernie Sanders, because Sanders caucused with the Democrats.