How does 2008 compare to Johnson's landslide election in 1964, which in turn set the stage for Reagan's landslide election in 1980, which then set the stage for the Republican domination of State and national politics for the last 28 years.
In 1980 Reagan won 50.7% of the vote; Carter won 40% and third party candidate John B Anderson won 6.7% of the vote.
In 2008 Obama won 53% of the vote to McCain's 46%. ( The convergence of polls on the last day at 7% that I wrote about on Monday night was right on the money.)
Reagan won every state except Minnesota (Mondale's home state) Georgia (Carter's home state) and West Virginia. Reagan won 489 electoral votes to Carter's 49.
Obama won 364 electoral votes to McCain's 174 electoral votes. (Rumpole's prediction on Monday night: 367-171. Not too bad. Of course we used to do this professionally, but that's another story.) On an electoral college scale, this election was not the landslide electoral re-alignment that the 1980 or 1964 election represented. 2008 represents the resurrection of the Democratic Party, and not a re-alignment of the electorate. However even that "resurrection" must be tempered by the understanding that this was an extraordinarily difficult environment for any Republican to run in, and that was before the economy teetered on the brink of collapse in October.
Now lets briefly look at the 1964 election which in effect created the 1980 Republican Re-alignment. In 1964 Johnson won 486 electoral votes to Goldwater's 52 votes. Johnson won 61% of the popular vote to Goldwater's 39%.
Viewed in the context of two historical landslides, Obama's 348 electoral votes can hardly be called a landslide. What Obama did do is win Florida AND Ohio (although Gore arguably won Florida, and Kerry may have won Ohio ) and make significant inroads into the Hispanic vote which allowed him to win in the west: Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. Again, these results, along with Obama winning "Republican states" Virginia and North Carolina represent a "resurrection" of the Democratic party, and not a fundamental re-alignment of the electorate.
What remains to be seen is if Obama can turn this "solid win" into a re-alignment of the electorate. If Obama is able to reach across the aisle and form collations that allow for bi-partisan passage of his programs, AND IF those programs are successful, then Obama can lead the Democratic party into a popular repudiation of the Republican bullying tactics that exemplified the Cheney-Bush years.
Proof that winning parties can lead through bi-partisan support will distinguish the Democrats from the Republicans, and draw millions more voters to the party. If that happens, then the next election, and the election after that will truly represent change. Just as Reagan moved the entire country, including the Democratic party to the right, (which in turn allowed Clinton to govern from the center) Obama's win can restore balance to the country and even help move the Republican party away from religious intolerance and extremism of the Bush years and back towards the centrist policies that made Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush so successful.
We shall see.