I'm afraid the Democrats lost because they thought Kerry's war hero/war protester history would play as principled rather than as the mother of all flip-flops. Folks in the heartland can identify with a partying rich kid who ducks military service to have a good time and later finds a good woman and gets saved. Taking a stand against your country on the basis of your own opinion looks like self-important posturing by comparison.
The "culture wars" really are about culture -- and that means they are about self-definition. That's why the line between news and entertainment blurred. The media landscape fused into one vast arena for contesting identities. Performers in that arena, from bloggers to pop music stars to politicians, are just that -- performers. And they have learned to give the fans what they want. Self-affirmation. Vindication.