Given the history of presidential elections, it appears that a Democratic candidate gets 40% of the vote for just showing up. Republicans historically did not have that kind of built-in base. GOP candidates had to reach out to Independents and continuously expand the GOP base in the face of the larger Democratic vote machine. Building on the success of Ronald Reagan’s Dixiecrats (conservative Southern Democrats), the GOP has converted large swaths of former Democrats and Independents into Republicans.
The defeat of John Kerry proves that the historic equation has reversed. Democrats now cannot win a national election without drawing from a conservative/libertarian pool in the red states. The 40% Democratic base is not enough to win – period. Winning both costs without turning some Republican states. The last two Democratic presidents who won the White House needed to capture a good percentage of that socially conservative vote and win a few Republican leaning states.
That’s what make the various liberal post mortems even more fun to watch. The emerging consensus among the lefty blogs is that the activism and liberalism have to be ratcheted up even more in 2008. Markos Moulitsas (Daily Kos) likes to point to Republican Barry Goldwater’s shellacking by Lyndon Johnson as a point from which the GOP majority was built.
Personally I’m hoping that things like Howard Dean for DNC Chairman pan out. Keep pinning your hopes on P. Diddy, Michael Moore, George Soros, et. all. If they continue down that path they’ll know exactly what Goldwater and his supporters felt like in 1964.