As American politics muddles through the tense days of the election campaign and its messy aftermath, a lot about what happens next is anyone's guess.
President-elect Joe Biden had as impressive a win as is probably possible to have with such an entrenched electorate and lopsided voting system.
Gaining five seats, including two Republican southern strongholds, is not a "narrow" victory, despite commentary to the contrary.
It breaks new ground and, when that happens, the future voting pattern can change significantly. Arizona and Georgia could follow the path of Colorado and Virginia as two previously red states to become reliably blue.
Yet, despite winning the Electoral College and the popular vote for the seventh time in the past eight elections, and holding onto the House of Representatives, the political system means the Democrats struggle to wield the majority power they represent.
President Donald Trump's tiresome baby-in-the-bunker act of refusing to concede he lost the election or to co-operate with Biden means the transition team is having to work around a major problem before the inauguration. It may end up being good practice for actual governing.
With the Senate, Vox calculated that if the Democrats win two Georgia runoff seats in January "the Democratic half will represent 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half". The tie would be broken by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' vote.
The Republican Party did well enough to be confident about rebounding in four years' time. The party is good at maintaining important levers at state level. It may lose the presidency and part of Congress for periods but its influence is never blown away.
If the GOP wins the Georgia seats, maintains control of the Senate and is obstructive, Biden will have to follow Trump's example with extensive use of Executive Orders, acting appointments rather than congressionally confirmed ones, and other roundabout methods to push his agenda.
Throughout the pandemic, our nation’s governors have stepped up to meet the moment. @KamalaHarris and I just met with the @NatlGovsAssoc to discuss how we’ll work together to combat COVID-19. Tune in. https://t.co/YiTjkIStbU— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 19, 2020
There is an open question over how involved Trump will remain in the party. He probably needed another term to cement his grip and push his uninspiring offspring as potential heirs.
Republicans have a chance to go in a different, less toxic, and more diverse direction. Early results suggested a sizeable section of Hispanic voters supported Trump. A different candidate could build on that.
The presidency is a major loss for the Republicans. It is a message megaphone and sets the agenda. There will automatically be a new tone, approach and priorities.
One obvious difficulty for the Democrats is they need both clear progress next year and a lengthy stay in the saddle. They will want voters to soon feel that conditions are improving but also they need time to deal with structural changes and for any reforms to be hard to overturn.
Clearly a way of making quick progress will be via Executive Orders.
A lot of political capital was spent during President Barack Obama's first two years on economic recovery and healthcare. A Hillary Clinton win in 2016 could have built on Obama's policy agenda. Instead, Trump reversed environmental measures, attacked the healthcare law and sabotaged the nuclear pact with Iran.
Biden's key to success is getting control of the virus, boosting the economy and selling it politically as a collective victory for the country.
Vaccines look set to arrive sometime next year and the approach of Operation Warp Speed, where planning, research and production were crunched into the same time frame, is an interesting model. Biden knows he must tackle several things at once and that the clock is ticking.
He has already incorporated some of Trump's nationalism into his long-term job creation approach. The economy has already received trillions in stimulus and the previous pandemic cash support scheme could be revived.
Just as Trump benefited from a stable economy when he took over, Biden can benefit from some aspects of the Republican's legacy.