Democratic pessimism today stands in contrast to the optimism that followed the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2012.
At that time, the consensus was that Democrats had found the key to sustained victory. The party saw its future in ascendant constituencies: empowered minorities, singles, social liberals and the well-educated.
Democratic activists saw the Republican Party as doomed to defeat without a radical change of course because it was tied to overlapping constituencies that they viewed as of waning significance — for example, older, non-college, evangelical white Christians.
Today, in a world of angry, fearful voters, it is liberal optimism that is at a low ebb — buffeted by a drumroll of terrorist incidents, rising levels of hostility toward immigrants and a broad animus toward difference, the unknown and the other.
Before 2016, no one, Democrat or Republican, thought that the man who would bring about radical change would be Donald Trump, except, perhaps, Trump himself.
For all the harm he has done, continues to do and proposes to do, Trump has successfully forced Democrats to begin to examine the party’s neglected liabilities, the widespread resentment of its elites and the frail loyalty of its supporters.