Some Republican are gloating after the election, while Democrats are slowly overcoming their shock and sadness.

What we learned from this election is what we already knew from President Obama’s race in 2008 and from Gov. Paul LePage’s races in 2010 and 2014. The country wants change. Partisans flatter themselves into thinking that whenever they are on the winning side of the change vote, as Democrats were eight years ago and Republicans are now, it means that voters are behind their programs and ideology. The reality is that change voters aren’t particularly fond of either party.

What change do these voters want? Some hope for impossible things, like turning back the clock, restoring factories that existed before machines replaced people, pushing women out of the workplace and back in the kitchen, or returning to the days when minorities and children were seen but seldom heard.

But that’s not what the majority of change voters seek. Most simply want a stable middle class and a fair chance to earn a decent living and provide for their families. They want a smaller, smarter government. They want politicians to actually get things done for the greater good. And they want a government that works for them rather than just the rich and the poor.

While we’re all focused on who won and who lost this election, it’s worth noting that the clear losers were the two parties.

Democrats once again struggled to find a coherent argument for why voters should support them. As they’ve done with LePage twice now, their main argument seemed to be that “we’re not him.”

When pressed on the economy, Democrats invariably retreat to ideas that were born in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and programs rooted in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. All of them boil down to expanding government programs, promoting public works projects and increasing government jobs.

While Democrats have led the way as change agents for civil rights, human rights and the environment, their ideas on the economy are muddled at best and nonexistent at worst. Without new and plausible ideas on how to grow the economy, Democrats are increasingly seen by change voters as the party of government and the protector of the status quo.

The challenges facing Democrats are severe, but those embroiling Republicans are even worse.

Running campaigns is a lot easier than governing. They’re like going to a carnival where there are lots of free rides. You get to yell crazy things to adoring crowds and eat a lot of cotton candy. You also get to make outrageous promises about things you will have no control over.

So it is now with President-elect Donald Trump, whose promises exceeded everyone else’s this campaign season. He’s about to crash into the cold reality of Washington after a year of vacationing on the balmy beaches of the campaign.

In Washington, the land mines are everywhere. Thanks to Trump, the party now has a broader and more unstable tent than ever before. It’s one thing for a party to have fiscal and social conservatives, small businesses and corporate America in their coalition. It’s quite another to add a large contingent of blue-collar people expecting their factories and their middle-class lives to return.

It was corporate America, after all, that shipped the country’s manufacturing jobs overseas in the first place. They don’t want tough trade deals or walls on the border. They want weak trade deals and leaky borders.

Then there’s the problem of the fiscal hawks within the party. Trump has promised a trillion-dollar infrastructure program, a big increase in the size of the military, a $5 billion wall and the largest tax cut in history. The last time a combination like that was tried, under President Ronald Reagan, the deficit exploded.

Republicans in Congress have been fighting virtually every spending bill proposed by the Obama administration for years. Now they face the choice of suddenly morphing into big spenders or opposing their new president.

Health care is another ticking time bomb for Republicans. It’s one thing to call for killing Obamacare when you know it will never happen. But actually taking health care away from 20 million people just prior to the midterm elections is another matter altogether. Republicans have the power to do that, but will they have the nerve?

The Republican Party has had the luxury of being the opposition party in government. It hasn’t had to solve problems or propose solutions on issues like immigration and health care. Now they are in charge, and they’re about to find out that opposing things is a lot easier than doing them.

Alan Caron is the owner of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be contacted at:

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