What a difference a day makes. In the 24 hours preceding the Nov. 8 election, newspapers were awash with ink predicting the end of the Republican Party as we know it due to the upstart GOP presidential nominee's seemingly inept campaign abetted by aggravating tweets.
The day after the election, however, it was clear that Donald Trump had won by in fact doubling down on the Republican Party's vaunted Southern strategy, which hinges on energizing the great white vote. Trump did that magnificently, and not just in the South. Middle America and pockets of suburbia were wooed as well.
Pundits abruptly ended a Republican wake after Hillary Clinton's unexpected defeat, and instead put the Democrats at death's door; denigrating the elder party's routine of turning out black and brown voters as identity politics, which disparages voters who like to think of themselves as color blind.
Already facing an identity crisis propelled by the insurgent campaign of Democratic pretender Bernie Sanders, the party has become unsure of its next step. That uncertainty may help to explain last week's reelection of Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader. But while her caucus may find comfort in knowing how the California congresswoman will lead them, Pelosi's victory also signals a continuation of partisan warfare.
Being girded for battle with the Republicans motivated defenders of Pelosi, who easily beat Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) in a 134-63 vote Wednesday. "The role of leader is one of tactician, of negotiator, of knowing all the rules, of having all the tools to stand up when necessary to Donald Trump," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) "She's effectively done that and is ready for this fight."
One might think Trump's success would signal to Democrats that Americans are hungry for change in Washington. Pelosi, 76, may be a fighter, but she represents the past. So does former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who is running for party chairman. Dean's toughest challenger, Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), may be a fresh face, but he's embraced by the Democrats' liberal wing, which is looking for a fight too.
In one sense that's understandable. Trump ran for president railing about how he was going to trample on President Obama's legacy, starting with repeal of the Affordable Care Act and erasing executive orders that protect some illegal immigrants. Republicans who berated Trump before he won the presidency are pledging to assist him in damning Obama's accomplishments.
But before they get into full battle mode, Republicans should remember that just a few short weeks ago they were where the Democrats are now: questioning their future. The problems Republicans saw within their party when they thought Trump would lose didn't disappear with his victory, and they could come back to haunt them in the midterm elections.
Beyond that, both parties need to recognize the need for leaders who can break through the silo mentalities of people of all stripes who tend to argue more than cooperate.