Anytime Democrats or Republicans get whupped in a big national election, the pundits and chattering classes inevitably pose some existential questions: What went wrong? Does the party have a future? What is it?
The 2016 presidential campaign was so ugly that reporters and TV talking heads are autopsying both parties. But there's a different, practical discussion worth having before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House in January: How can House and Senate Democrats buffer America from the worst parts of the Trump agenda and the agendas of the House and Senate GOP majorities?
House Representative Louise Slaughter and Senator Chuck Schumer -- the likely Senate Democratic leader -- will be key players when it comes to pushing back on Trump and the GOP, but also in moving good legislation forward.
Slaughter and Schumer are skilled at getting issues in front of the media and the public, which can help build public pressure for or against legislation.
Slaughter starts her 16th House term in 2017, which makes her one of the most senior representatives in either party. She's influential among Democrats, but has also built meaningful cross-aisle relationships, which helps her shape legislation of local and national significance.
"I'm hoping that we can have some meetings of the minds," Slaughter says. "Our job is to move the United States forward, not to hold up one side or the other, but to do what's best for the people that sent us."
Slaughter is an ardent supporter of Obamacare, which Trump and the Congressional GOP want to repeal and, Trump says, replace. She won't stand for attempts to roll back reproductive rights, and she's worried about potential GOP efforts to alter Medicare, she says. And as far as immigration goes, Slaughter and Trump are opposites.
But she and many other members of Congress have common ground with Trump on trade. Neither Trump nor Slaughter supports the North American Free Trade Agreement or the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership; Trump has vowed to renegotiate the former and withdraw the US from the latter.
Schumer will likely be the face and voice of Senate Democrats, as well as one of the conference's key tacticians. He can be tough, and won't shy away from manipulating procedural rules in the chamber to block legislation – Slaughter says it might be possible for Senate Dems to block an Obamacare repeal -- and appointments, including Supreme Court nominees. Republicans have used a similar approach to great effect during Barack Obama's presidency.
Senate Democrats will spend the coming weeks figuring out how they'll move forward, Schumer said in a post-election press release.
Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello finds himself in a similar situation as Slaughter and Schumer, since county government is also dominated by the Republican Party. He is Democrats' chance to let some air into a government that has been choked by cronyism and scandal.
Bello was appointed to the office in January and elected to a full four-year term last week. In his first months, he pushed back on past practices by his predecessor, now County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, particularly on passport fee waivers that violated federal law.
He's articulated a vision for the office that includes tech upgrades and a full-time downtown DMV office, but those ideas take money. Dinolfo will release her 2017 budget proposal soon and it could leave Bello -- who is widely mentioned as a possible county exec candidate down the line -- without the funding to implement his plans.
Bello beat the Republican candidate, Greece Town Clerk Cheryl Rozzi, by a substantial margin; he pulled in 58 percent of the vote to Rozzi's 42 percent. So if he makes a public case for a downtown DMV office, for example, the Dinolfo administration may face pressure to cooperate.