President Barack Obama won a narrow victory in the popular vote Tuesday, but a decisive vote in the electoral college. His victory in the battle of ideas was decisive too. In the swing states that turned the election, voters rejected major changes in entitlements, lower taxes on the wealthy, deregulation of industry, and harsher penalties against illegal immigrants.
Going into the campaign, Republicans believed they were riding the wave of history. Rarely have the election returns been so cruel to those so righteously certain of themselves.
Where does our state fit into the election story? Wednesday morning, a Democrat said to me "This is a great day to be a Democrat -- unless you live in Alaska."
Alaska not only remained a red state but we now may have the most conservative government in the history of the Last Frontier. About a third of the Legislature will be Democratic, and Republicans hold all the levers of power in Juneau. Gov. Sean Parnell's oil tax bill is not a sure thing, but the oil companies will have greater influence than when Bill Allen walked the halls. Why bother with lobbyists when your employees and friends have been elected to the Legislature?
After winning more than 60 percent of the vote in his re-election bid, Congressman Don Young condemned President Obama, called him names. No doubt some of his constituents cheered, but Don Young is irrelevant in Washington. As he approaches the 40th anniversary of his arrival in the capital, he is voice no longer heard except by a few House cronies, an occasional lobbyist. Young now ranks as the fifth longest-serving member of the House yet he has not been able to convert his longevity into sustained influence.
For Mark Begich, Alaska's reigning Democrat, the election provided mixed results. John Tester's victory in Montana provides him with an example of how a Democrat can win re-election in a red state. But he is still stuck with performing the Houdini act of voting with his party without looking like a Democrat. And with the danger that by 2014 the nation will be suffering Obama fatigue and elected Democrats will suffer.
For Lisa Murkowski, the election was a missed opportunity. Republicans thought they would capture the Senate. This would have made Murkowski chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. Instead, she is the ranking minority member of the committee in a Senate with an expanded Democratic majority.
Now that Gov. Parnell has seen the election returns, he can return to his hobby - suing the federal government. His success rate is about the same as those who play the Powerball Lottery - zero - but lawsuits provide him with the opportunity to show his constituents he's a stand-up guy who won't buckle to Uncle Sam.
Finally, an election surprise. Alaska was by no means the most anti-Obama state in the union. The president won 41 percent here. Seventeen states states, mostly in the south and west, gave him lower percentages. The outcome here probably reflects the lack of affection for Romney more than anything else. But then again Boston, where Mitt lives, did not have much affection for him either. Bean Town voted 77 percent Obama.
Michael Carey is the former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News. E-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.