Those of us who came of age in the 1980s witnessed a spectacular political transformation in this country. Across a generation, from 1980 through 2003, one political party consistently gained adherents, and the other lost them. The status quo was upended; new imperatives came to the fore. That generation of change had a name: It was called the Reagan Revolution. It's impossible to review the trend lines it produced and conclude anything but that, in those more than 20 years of partisan to and fro, the Republican Party presented the more compelling political argument.
After 2003, with an unpopular war, an unpopular Republican president - and, as we now clearly see, a changing country - that pattern cracked. Then, in 2008, it shattered. But a question remained: Would those now-familiar Republican themes reassert themselves and the party's progress resume - or was it truly a new political landscape?
That's the question that was answered last night. One election is a one-off. Two is a trend. The new dynamics we've been discussing - the rising influence of minority voters, the lopsided preferences of young voters, the dramatic changes we continue to see on social issues - mark more than a second term for Barack Obama. They mark, decisively, the turning of a political page.
What's written next may take time to make out. But it promises to be every bit as transformational as what came before.