Or, as John Stewart so wonderfully put it, "when did the Democratic Party become Lionel Hutz."
Mind you, the Republicans don't look much better. Their base is about as demoralized as it can get. The religious communities have become increasingly fractious. For example, Catholics opposed to abortion also oppose the War and no longer believe they have to keep silent on the later to further their agenda on the former. Evangelicals are concerned about global warming and questioning the wisdom of the "my way or the highway" approach taken by the former leadership. Nor do they see that the crusade for God must necessarily go hand in hand with corporate welfare.
Besides, with a solid five on the Supreme Court, the urgency of the abortion issue has faded. Ditto the gay marriage issue. With the majority of state courts having resolved their outstanding gay marriage cases against the plaintiffs, it is hard to maintain a sense of urgency and outrage that gets foot soldiers to the polls. And, perhaps most significantly, 2006 showed that Karl Rove and the Republican machine are not infallible, but no one has offered a better strategy or different way.
And, of course, there is the continued lack of any sort of third party or charismatic leader capable of leveraging the situation. For which, mind you, I am quite grateful. This is the classic moment for a well-organized charismatic with a significant power base and decent political sense to persuade the disaffected that s/he offers a solution. But it would appear that even the worst, as well as the best, simultaneously lack all conviction yet are filled with passionate intensity.
Still, the Democrats are heading on a steady slide to ensure that they at best remain static, when they should be able to capitalize on the ongoing disintegration of the Republican party. We will also need to see the primary candidates. There are growing rumblings within the progressives to run progressive candidates in primaries to contest seats where senior democrats have blocked progressive efforts on legislative reform. I am not nearly as plugged in on the Republican/conservative side, and their reversals are too recent to have inspired the sort of radical reconstruction of the kind Howard Dean managed for the Democrats in '06 (indeed, Dean had a tough time ramming it through the Democrats). But I would not be surprised to see progressive Republican candidates, promising a less strident tone and a greater willingness to use government to foster solutions for health care, invest in public infrastructure, and create greater financial security. I have met a number of such Republicans at the local level in the munibroadband movement, and I suspect their numbers are growing.