Barack Obama is still president. The Democrats still control the Senate. The Tea Party Republicans still control the House.
Meanwhile, the planet is still warming. And we still don’t have a plan to do anything about it.
So did anything at all happen during this election? Was it all just a mad dream of dueling polls, pugnacious debates, and SuperPAC-funded attack ads? Did red and blue just fight a draw, leaving a deadlocked status quo to stew in its bitter juices?
No: The political landscape looks the same but the tectonic plates have moved beneath the surface. Here are four big reasons why.
Obamacare lives: The president’s reelection served as an effective second ratification of his healthcare plan (third, if you count the Supreme Court ruling). That’s a huge deal. A President Romney might not have been able to get full repeal through a Democratic Senate, but he’d have wielded a lot of executive power to wreck Obamacare.
Democrats enter “fiscal cliff” negotiations with a strong hand: If Republicans in Congress don’t find a way to compromise with President Obama, the new year will automatically bring a radically progressive agenda into law: taxes will go up as the Bush tax cuts expire, and heavy cuts to military spending will kick in. It’s a risky road — all that austerity might also tip the nation back into recession. But it gives the president a very strong hand to play both before and after Jan. 1.
The Supreme Court is safe(r) for four more years: With one more Supreme Court appointment, a Republican president could tip the court decisively for a generation in the direction of the originalist fundamentalism embraced by the court’s right wing. Among many other things — including reproductive rights — we could kiss many of the nation’s most significant environmental regulations goodbye.
The climate has a fighting chance: Obama disappointed climate hawks in his first term. His “all of the above” energy strategy promises no sharpening of policy or change of heart. But at least his party is willing to speak about the issue without dismissing science.
In the wake of Sandy’s coastal devastation, there’s at least a chance of reopening the national conversation about global warming. It would be great for that conversation to be led by a president who’s a real climate crusader.
Obama hasn’t been one, so far. But at least we’re not getting a denier in the White House.
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