The party of Hillary Clinton has not stopped losing since last November.  This fact is easily overlooked amid all of President Trump’s bad press, but Democrats have reliably come up short in special elections from Montana to Kansas to suburban Atlanta.  Jon Ossoff, the Democrat running in Georgia’s Sixth District, raised over $23 million by the end of May, but lost to Republican Karen Handel less than three weeks later.  The contest was the most expensive House race of all time, costing well over $50 million—and that’s not counting the earned media Ossoff received as a darling of the self-styled “Resistance” to President Trump.

Democrats have excuses aplenty, and some of them are good ones.  Flipping solidly Republican districts in Georgia, Montana, or Kansas means fighting against political gravity, even in the context of special elections like these.  But then again, Donald Trump is president because he did flip states that no Republican was supposed to win.  Faced with difficult districts, a party has to adapt.  And that’s one thing the party of Hillary Clinton refuses to do.

The future was supposed to belong to the Democratic Party.  Indeed, not a few pundits convinced themselves last year that the future had already arrived: Obama’s presidency had heralded a permanent demographic shift toward a younger, less white electorate, one that would do for Hillary Clinton exactly what it had done twice for Obama.  The commentators who believed that, though, had not been paying attention during the fight for the Democratic nomination.  If they had been, they would have noticed that it was not Clinton but Bernie Sanders who inspired the young progressive base, including young nonwhites.  In May 2016, NBC News analyzed exit polls in 25 Democratic primaries and found that while older black voters were overwhelmingly loyal to Clinton, blacks under 30 went for Sanders 52 to 47 percent.  The future may or may not belong to the party of Obama and Sanders.  It certainly does not belong to the party of Clinton.

Upheavals in demography, economics, and culture are reshaping both parties.  Republicans have so far proved to be more adaptable—not because GOP leaders are farsighted, but because they have been successfully defied by the party’s base.  Voters within the GOP put an end to the Bush dynasty.  The Democrats have not been able to rid themselves of the Clintons.  A week before Georgia’s special election, primaries in Virginia illustrated the drift of both parties.  In the Republican gubernatorial contest, a right-wing candidate who styled himself after Trump, Corey Stewart, came within 1.5 points of beating the party’s long-presumptive nominee, lobbyist Ed Gillespie.  This was as shocking a result as Gillespie’s own near-defeat, within one point, of Democrat Mark Warner in the Virginia 2014 Senate election.  That narrow loss was what set Gillespie up to be the party’s standard-bearer this year.  But now Stewart has shown that Gillespie’s brand of Republicanism may not have much of a future in the Old Dominion.  More than that, Stewart’s performance signals to GOP officeholders everywhere that they risk humiliating primary challenges or outright defeat if they fail to appeal to their pro-Trump base.

In Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial race, by contrast, the establishment won.  Specifically, the Clintons won.  The Democratic nominee, current lieutenant governor Ralph Northam, is an ally of incumbent Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who in turn is a longtime Clinton crony who served as chairman of Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign.  Northam defeated Tom Perriello, a rival endorsed by Bernie Sanders and supported by many alumni of the Obama administration.  Although Democrats publicly resisted attempts to frame the contest as a rematch between the party’s Clinton and Sanders (or Sanders-Obama) factions, and 2016 Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was among Perriello’s backers, the party’s divisions were clear.  Perriello was the relative populist and anti-establishment Democrat; Northam was the Clinton choice, and he won by a solid 11-point margin.

Northam, an establishment Democrat, will probably defeat Gillespie, an establishment Republican, in November.  Virginia has been turning blue for a decade, thanks in part to the continued growth of the D.C. suburbs.  The significance of the June gubernatorial primary, however, lies less in what it portends for Virginia in November than in what it confirms about the essence of the GOP and Democratic Party today.  The former is Trump’s party, even if exactly what that means is unclear.  The latter is still Hillary Clinton’s party.  And the Democratic strategy for the foreseeable future seems to hinge on winning the next election—the next two, in fact, in 2018 and 2020—the same way Clinton expected to win in 2016: by simply letting Trump defeat himself and his party.

Until now this has been a losing strategy.  It might succeed nevertheless in next year’s midterms: Democrats need take only 24 seats to win control of the House, and midterms have produced swings larger than that under each of the last three presidents (although George W. Bush’s loss of 30 Republican seats had to wait for his second midterm election, in 2006).  But Democrats hoping for a long-term revival of their party’s fortunes by sticking with Clinton are in for a shock—another shock as great as the one they received last November 8.  Americans left and right are ready for something new, even if they are not sure what it is.  The party that figures out how to address the country’s real needs first will win more than just a midterm.