It would be nice to think that the winds of change blowing through
the country right now would carry fresh air into Washington and lift up
Congress to a higher level of governance that we’ve since since the ‘06
election promised to change everything…..but didn’t do much of anything.

What’s possible there remains to be seen, in its unfolding.

As far as election campaigns go, there’s no going back to the way things were.

“Change” may be the most overused word of this election
season, but here’s one instance where it definitely applies: Campaign
2008 will change in a fundamental way how American campaigns will be
conducted in the future.

Count the ways:

The system for financing campaigns in place for a
generation has been shattered as a result of this year’s race and will
have to be replaced. The notion of which states are battlegrounds has
been altered. What’s loosely called “the press” has become a different
and more polarized force.

That one deserves far more than one line. They have pretty much self-destructed, losing integrity and credibility as they went.

And the Democratic and Republican parties’ very
definitions of themselves figure to change, with the emergence of more
upscale Democrats and more downscale “Wal-Mart Republicans” altering
how the parties see themselves.

What else?

It has been the longest presidential campaign ever, and the most expensive, by a wide margin.

Yes, we are drained. In more ways than one.

It also has been the campaign that best reflects the
21st century face of America. This year’s race brought forth the most
serious African-American candidate (Sen. Barack Obama), the most
serious female candidate (Sen. Hillary Clinton), the most serious
Mormon candidate (Gov. Mitt Romney) and the most serious Hispanic
candidate (Gov. Bill Richardson) ever to grace a presidential-debate
stage.

Go back and look at that flip of party identity, especially on the income demographic.

For their part, Democrats have shown they are attracting
a sizable number of high-income voters who once seemed more drawn to
the Republican lower-taxes message. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll
in late October, for example, shows Sen. Obama and his running mate,
Sen. Joe Biden, winning 51% of the vote among those earning more than
$75,000 a year.

Interesting, especially since the higher earners will be the most taxed under an Obama administration.

Now look at this:

Such changes in the complexion of the two major parties
could portend changes in their policy positions over time. The
evangelical influence, for example, may make Democrats less reflexively
supportive of abortion rights.

In ‘06, the Democrats won a narrow majority in Congress thanks
largely to the ‘blue dog Democrats’ who held socially conservative
values. After the election, they were marginalized by their party and
have had no discernible effect.

In this election, one of the themes of the night has been how
successful Obama has been at running as a center-left candidate,
moderating his known liberal views to appeal to moderate voters
and independents. Recurring question of the night: Has America drifted
left, or has Obama drifted right? Apparently, it’s ‘both/and’.

For now. But that’s bound to change, too.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....