Clearly, the topic du jour is what now. What I'm going to say may piss off some of you, but I think its ultimately right. We need to sacrifice the present for the future.
How? A three-pronged strategy.
1) Give 'em rope to hang themselves
2) Starve the beast
3) Cut the fat.
Give 'em rope - Look, this was not a mandate election. Fine. It was, however, an equilibrium election. We can repeat this election repeatedly, and absent a shift, we will lose by 2 points every time. Maybe we will take Ohio sometime, maybe not.
So how do we win? We do so with a complete and utter rejection of their ideas. The only way for that to happen is to let them be enacted. Give the people no excuses. This country had a long history of isolationism, debated but never turned...until Pearl Harbor and the personal effect of the Holocaust. We had laissez-faire rejection of the administrative state and Lochner politics until Hoover. If we fight them tooth and nail, make them compromise, let them get some of their agenda off, and then failure can be blamed on compromise. Give it up...we are not going to get much concession anyway: and let them be free. FDR would NEVER have been elected; the Democrats never would have risen, had the GOP of the 1920s proven utterly incapable of leadership. Reagan would NEVER have been elected without Carter's failures. Give 'em rope. It may mean a draft, regressive taxes, the end of social security. Yet better a quick death and a mandate to rebuild from the ashes than a slow debilitation that is never solved.
2) Starve the beast: When I speak of failure, that failure must be political. How do we do that? By shutting down their constituency and taking away issues. I support a woman's right to choose, but a quick death to Roe v. Wade might take the issue off the table for social conservatives. Professor Dorf elaborates better below. They want to cut spending? Fine. Eviscerate the blue state subsidies of red states. Let's see how much people in Alabama like tax reform when New Yorkers are no longer paying for their farms and schools (and, no, I'm not saying screw them, but I do think the Red State worldview must be made aware of te costs of their decisions, and they're going to have to sacrifice too). By using their own rhetoric against them, we can starve the beast and bring in the mandate for replacement, where we as Democrats can determine the alternative.
3) Trim the fat. The only way to determine the alternative is to act like a real minority party and trim off our coalition fats. We don't need Zell Millers in our party. We need a party not broad but united. We need a party that will proudly put forth a real progressive when our turn to lead arrives. We should not cede the South, but we should stop competing there with Republicans-light. True progressives, who use faith as a reason for social justice, can win in the South, particularly as the South realizes that the dominance of their people will not be a panacea for the cultural and economic woes they face.
In 1960, the GOP was a moderate, economic libertarian and socially liberal party. They lost in 1960 in a razor thin election, suffered a setback in 1962, and then were crushed in 1964. They abandoned the Rockefeller Republicans and literally abandoned any control of Congress. Those that remained were intolerant, hateful, and regressive. Yet by cutting the fat, they got the platform, and with the ebbs and flows of politics their message was adhered to. They used their pulpit and the policies of Reagan to build first an ideological and then a governing majority. Its time for Liberals to take a stand, reclaim the party, and build a message so that when the next change of power occurs, Texans can revile Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Boxer the way we hate Frist and DeLay. Let them point to moderates such as John Edwards not with revile but with the desperate hope that the Democrats will return to that center, the way we pray with little hope for the return of the Republican party to which Lincoln Chaffee and John McCain used to belong to.