A November 12th National Journal article by Jonathan Rauch takes apart a series of myths about what the 2004 election signified. The first three paragraphs nicely sum it up.
The election of 2004 was one of the greatest of our era, but the post-election of 2004 was as bad as they come. Rarely have election returns been so widely but wrongly — in fact, dangerously — misconstrued.
A quick post-post-election exit poll: Which of the following two statements more accurately describes what happened on November 2?
A) The election was a stunning triumph for the president, the Republicans, and (especially) social conservatives. Because the country turned to the right, President Bush received a mandate, the Republicans consolidated their dominance, and the Democrats lost touch with the country.
B) Bush and the Republicans are on thin ice. Bush barely eked out a majority, the country is still divided 50-50, and the electoral landscape has hardly changed, except in one respect: The Republican Party has shifted precariously to the right of the country, and the world, that it leads.
Usual answer: A. Correct answer: B.
It gets better. Read it as a “pick-me-up” for Election Day blues.