Despite a lot of strong emotional reactions, we don't have a new president and the composition of Congress hasn't changed all that much. In that most basic sense, the federal elections of 2012 haven't really changed anything at all.
At a deeper level though, there seems to already be a shift in the public mood and debate. In many ways, the entire narrative that Republicans have been working on for the last four years is in the process of falling apart at a rapid pace.
Obama's first election wasn't a fluke
Above all, the 2012 election has reaffirmed the nation's decision to elect Barack Obama. This proves that the first time was not an accident and that Obama is no Jimmy Carter. In fact, no matter what happens now, American history will always at least remember Obama as a two-term president. With an administration spanning eight years, it is undeniable that he will leave a lasting influence on the country.
Elected Republicans rediscover compromise
The narrative that has been sustaining Republican deadlock in Congress was that the American people had rejected Obama through the rise of the Tea Party in 2010 House elections. Accordingly, any efforts they made to undercut his agenda should theoretically be representative of America's wishes. Now, that narrative is useless, and key Republican figures have noted that there are ready to compromise and work through some of Obama's proposals.
Specifically, recent polls indicate that if an agreement isn't reached to prevent the "Fiscal Cliff" Republicans have been hyping, it will be the Republicans themselves who end up with most of the public's blame.
Obama's aggressive electoral strategy paid off
A lot of pundits thought Obama was being overconfident with his attempts to spend limited campaign resources in traditionally red states like North Carolina. Cautious liberals recommended a defensive strategy focused on a rust-state battleground, but Obama decided to launch an attack straight in to some of the states other Democrats would have written off from the start.
Without a doubt, Obama's gambit returned a huge profit of electoral votes. Not only did he win by a larger margin than Carter, Eisenhower, or Nixon, he also proved that he can take bold action and succeed where others have failed.
The GOP is becoming even more divided
Hard-core conservatives are convinced that Romney lost because he was too moderate. Moderate Republicans think the opposite. The libertarian wing of the GOP is pointing to poor treatment of Ron Paul to explain a record number of votes for Gary Johnson and poor turnout for Romney.
It might not even matter which group is right, because the simple existence of such bitter divisions is going to complicate the construction of any new uniting narratives.
Many Republican voters just don't want to talk about it
Another interesting trend I've noticed from around the web is that a lot of conservative commenters only want to talk about how they don't want to talk about politics any more. They claim liberals are mean and that the country is doomed, but otherwise, they've had enough.
From Reddit to forums we've never heard of, bipartisan discussion boards are becoming lopsided as Republican supporters increasingly refuse to participate.
Except the ones who should probably stop talking...
But, if you look hard enough in to the places where "libruls" aren't allowed to post, you can still find plenty of proud Republicans out there with increasingly insane political views. We've heard the birther conspiracies, and we've heard the secret Muslim theories, but now some are wondering out loud if he's the anti-Christ himself. Apparently, that "Saracen bastard" can't even pardon a turkey without infuriating the far-out fringe of the far-right wing.
"Foot in mouth" disease has been a rampant problem among Republican politicians lately, and enthusiasm for carrying the GOP torch seems to be left with those who have little tact or political common-sense.
What does the future of the Republican party hold? That isn't completely clear yet, except that the future can no longer resemble the recent past. The strategy and narrative that dominated 2008 to 2012 have failed, and picking up the pieces will be even more difficult this time around.