There is much doom and gloom coming from Dems today, and understandably so. Here are a few reasons why the electoral outcome may not be as dreadful as you think:
1. Iraq. The war is a mess and is likely to continue to be so. That's bad news, of course, but does anyone really think that Kerry would have been able to change things? Once he settled on a post-primary political strategy, Kerry's basic line was that Bush rushed to war w/o building a sufficiently strong alliance and did not provide sufficient numbers of troops. Each charge is true, but each fact is now a fait accompli. As far as the strategy going forward, Kerry's main difference from Bush was a promise to internationalize the conflict, by bringing in the UN and our allies. There was something to this idea: Kerry would have been in a better position to attract international support, as he isn't the guy who thumbed his nose at the world in going it nearly alone in the first place. But Kerry still would have failed. The war is hugely unpopular in the Muslim world and Europe (including most of "new" Europe too). What foreign leader in his right mind would commit troops to Iraq now? So Bush's re-election doesn't really put us in a different position vis-a-vis Iraq. As for me, I'll hope that, against the odds, Iraqi elections in January go smoothly enough that an Iraqi government with sufficient legitimacy can begin seriously to take over security, and we can start drawing down troop strength. If that happens, it will be good news for everyone (except jihadists), and (in crass political terms), Iraq won't be an election issue in the mid-terms or '08. If, as I fear, we remain mired in Iraq, at least the public will know for sure whom to blame next time around (and they won't have the option of blaming Kerry).
2. The courts. It's hard to spin this issue positively, except perhaps by invoking the fundamental unpredictability of human experience. There is a plausible argument (made to me this very day by a former student) that Lawrence v. Texas got Bush re-elected: it catalyzed the Mass Sup Jud'l Ct case finding a right to same-sex marriage, and the backlash against same-sex marriage in turn drove turnout of Christian conservatives. So by the same logic, perhaps when Chief Justice Ashcroft writes the Supreme Court opinion not only overturning Roe v. Wade, but finding that fetuses have a constitutional right to life that thereby prohibits states from permitting abortion (on equal protection grounds), this will catalyze a liberal backlash that will carry Democrats to the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress. My point isn't that this is a highly likely scenario but that over the medium term, it's very hard to distinguish a blessing from a curse.
3. Taxes. Given a Republican Congress, Kerry couldn't have repealed the Bush tax cut on the top 1% of wage earners anyway, and if he could, that would have been personally bad for you future lawyers planning on earning a lot of money. I know I'm planning to buy an Ipod (and have plenty of $ left over) w/ the tax money I save thanks to my friends in the red states. ;-)
4. The environment. Okay, this is a pretty clear loser. Four more years of disregard for the planet is definitely bad. On the other hand, it's not as though Democrats have been such great environmentalists. Note that the SUV-ification of America's highways took place largely on the Clinton-Gore watch.
5. Scandal. Each of the last 3 presidents to be elected to two terms was mired in scandal in his second term. For Nixon, it was Watergate. For Reagan it was Iran-contra. For Clinton it was L'Affaire de Lewinsky. Watch for Halliburton-gate!
6. A star is born. Obama in 08!!
7. You've still got your health.