OK, here’s the Democrats’ road map for the next 8-12 years, if they want to be a majority party again.
First stage: Guerilla Warfare – be VERY LOUD. Bush will nominate 1, possibly more, supreme court justices. Even though the Democrats cannot stop them easily if the Republicans maintain party discipline, they CAN make them test cases for guerilla legislative action. Fillibusters. Pressure on wavering/vulnerable moderate Republicans. Public exposure. Theatrics. If they can derail Bush’s nominee (and based on history, this is doable, because Bush’s people will be arrogant enough to nominate Alan Keyes or something) then they score a huge, huge moral victory. Whoever organizes this can then continue the rebuilding process.
Second stage: It’s the Message, Stupid – To move beyond loud theatrics, the Democrats have to have issues and platforms that appeal beyond their own base. This means issues beyond the hot buttons. No more relying on scaring people about abortion. No more getting out the gay vote via gay marraige referenda. No more appealing to black feelings of disenfrachisement. These things all work for getting 49% of the vote. It’s not enough. In 1994 the Republicans, after being soundly thrashed by Bill Clinton’s resurgent neoDemocrat majority, put together a “Contract for America”, with things that appealed to more than just Republicans, such as welfare reform and balanced budgets. It worked so well that the Clinton administration, which until that point was working actively towards New Deal-esque measures like universal health care, was paralyzed until they finally surrendered and co-opted it completely. The Democrats have to find the ideas that appeal beyond the 49% base.
Third stage: Uniting the country. The Democrats have to find a figure that can move beyond the politics of the Clinton and Bush era. When they find a leader that will tell the insta-pollers and the rapid response teams to go find honest work and is willing to appeal to the American people on the basis of their own ideas, the Democrats will win a solid majority of the electorate. Which is why the prior stage is so important – the party itself has to be ready for this as well or that leader will never survive the nomination process. See: Howard Dean.
This is how the Democrats can turn it around. Will it happen? History shows that it will require a shock to the system that will cause the current generation of leadership to be, well, fired. We’re not there yet. Terry McAuliffe is still going to run the DNC. Hillary Clinton is still probably going to be the 2008 nominee. There needs to be more blood before the next generation can, in true Klingon style, kill their superiors and take command.
Or the Republicans can do the same thing. Except that at the moment they’re not motivated to. By playing to THEIR base, they get 51%. 51% sucks for getting a decent night’s sleep on Election Day – but it wins at the end of the week. It’s done it twice now. The Democrats, now, are the best hope to break this deadlock. And for the good of the country, it must be broken.