Along with tarot cards and goat entrails, a lot of people believe they can divine hidden meaning from the results of off-year elections, like the ones in Virginia, New York and New Jersey on Tuesday. I'm skeptical. For one thing, nobody bothers to wait for the polls to close anymore--the "meaning" of the results has been hammered out in advance. A GOP sweep will be taken as proof that conservatives are resurgent and President Obama's agenda is in trouble, while Democratic wins in New York and New Jersey--Virginia is hopeless--will demonstrate that conservatives have gone off the deep end. (Any other combination will mean a dull night for cable television.)
A year after Obama's landslide victory and the expanded Democratic margins that brought in the House and Senate, the political landscape has changed, but not nearly to the degree that the "pre-" post-race analysis would have you believe. It's changed marginally--and only marginally--in the direction that almost anyone could have predicted a year ago: As campaign promises give way to actual policy tradeoffs, as the political world stubbornly fails to morph into something resembling those embarrassing old Coke commercials where everybody holds hands and sings, Democrats are falling back to earth a bit and an impatient, naive sliver of the electorate is growing jaded. But that's it.