Here are a couple of good articles at Lawyers, Guns and Money that are worth your time. Erik Loomis writes,
I would like to think that we on the left actually do understand history. We do not. There is a clear path to change. Conservatives understand this. You take over the party structure. That’s what they did in the 1950s and 1960s when they were disgusted by the moderate Republicanism of Dwight Eisenhower, Earl Warren, and Nelson Rockefeller. They took over party structures and local offices and turned them into bastions of energized conservatism. Note that conservatives basically don’t run 3rd party campaigns. Libertarians might talk about doing this–but they almost all vote Republican in the end because they know that they are moving their agenda forward by doing so.
Any reading of history shows that change within the American political system does not come through third party campaigns. It comes through the hard work of organizing our communities to demand change. Eventually legal and political changes are necessary–but only after people are organized to demand them. Look at the major movements in the last century. The labor movement, African-American civil rights, the women’s movement, gay rights movement. Each of these movements spent decades (or a century) organizing for change. For each of them, there was a moment when it all came together and they could demand transformations of federal and state law, which for gay rights is happening right now.
Note that not a single one of these transformational social movements used a third party mechanism as an important strategy.
It seems that every other year or so some progressive comes up with the bright idea of organizing a third party, as if such a thing has never been tried before. In fact, there have been many strong efforts to create a third party, beginning about 1830 or so. In the 19th century there were more alternative parties than you can shake a stick at. Yet there are only two nationally dominant parties at a time, although not the same ones. That we remain stuck with two, and only two, nationally dominant parties has to do with the way we hold elections, and until that changes, we’ve got two parties.
The other thing that has saddened me terribly is the way so many people turned their backs on President Obama almost as soon as he was elected. Some didn’t even wait for him to be inaugurated. A lot of those were disgruntled Hillary supporters. But it was naive to think that all we had to do was elect a Dem president and then sit back and wait for him to fix everything in the first half of the first term.
I went back and read the post I wrote after the election in 2008, saying that electing Obama was just the beginning of the fight. I think it holds up pretty well.
Erik Loomis is right; the Left doesn’t understand history and doesn’t understand how to play the long game. That’s why can’t get ahead of the Right. And the fact is, the Dems in the past couple of years have become tougher and more united, and as this campaign has shown they are no longer shy about standing firmly on controversial social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. This is a tangible change from where they were four years ago. We need to build on that.