12/06/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What's Next: For the GOP, for Progressives, and for Political Campaigns

Part I: What Republicans Must Do, or The Case for Conservatism

Last night's landslide rebuke of Republican policies will leave the party of Lincoln wandering in the wilderness for years to come. The GOP will do a great deal of soul-searching, and in the end, if the wisest of its leaders prevail, the party will return to what once made it great.

The Republican Party is, ostensibly, the party of conservatism, and American conservatism used to stand for something.

Conservatism meant the protection of individual liberties. Republicans gave us the Patriot Act.

Conservatism meant the avoidance of unnecessary foreign entanglements. Republicans gave us the Iraq War.

Conservatism meant fiscal responsibility. Republicans gave us the largest deficits in history under President Reagan, then broke that record under President Bush the Elder, and then broke that record under our current lame-duck president.

Conservatism meant preventing government from intruding in people's personal lives. Republicans gave us warrantless wiretapping and intrusion into the bedrooms of Americans in the form of anti-gay marriage legislation.

Modern Republicans like to look to Reagan as the quintessential model for conservatism, but this is a foolish and dangerous notion. Instead, Reagan marks the point at which conservatism first began to go off the track, to abandon its principles, and veer onto a course best described as right-wing reactionary, not conservative. That course hit its inevitable nadir under President Bush, leading to the situation in which the Republican Party now finds itself.

Republicans, remember your ancestry. Remember Goldwater. Remember Buckley. And find yourselves again.

Part II: Campaigning, or The End of All There Is

While the long-term effects of the new regime cannot yet be known, the long-term effects of this campaign are calculable, and they are huge. In essence, Hillary Clinton in the primary and John McCain in the general ran the final political campaigns of the 20th century.

Obama beat Hillary for a variety of reasons, but one of the big ones was the massive organizing effort in caucus states and small-state primaries, killing the Clinton campaign with a thousand paper cuts. That organization would not have been possible without the Internet.

Obama went on to best McCain, again for a long list of reasons, including the withering of the Republican brand and McCain's inept campaign. But perhaps more than that, Barack Obama drowned John McCain in a sea of cash. The staggering fundraising of the Obama campaign would not have been possible without the Internet. Howard Dean showed what online fundraising could do in 2004, but his campaign lacked the early organization so crucial to Obama's effort. Combining Dean's pioneering work in online fundraising with his own experience in organizing droves of volunteers, Obama created the blueprint for the national political campaign of the 21st Century. Those who follow the outdated Clinton-McCain model are doomed to failure and disgrace.

Part III: What Progressives Must Do, or Where is Molly Ivins When We Really Need Her?

The late, great columnist Molly Ivins wrote in her final column before she died, "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell." That was almost two years ago now. Hard to believe she's been gone so long. But I have a hard time letting go of my dead heroes; I still expect Hunter Thompson to come roaring back onto the pages of Rolling Stone, and he's been in his grave twice as long as Ivins.

Anyway, point being that if people dedicated to the progressive cause think this is the final victory, that they can now rely on the Democratic White House and enhanced Democratic majorities in Congress to fight the good fight without being dragged kicking and screaming to do it, they are kidding themselves. For eight years, progressive activists had a White House that ignored their cries. Does it really make sense that now, with a government more amenable to the cause, activists should stop shouting?

This election is over, but this fight is not. Hold their feet to the fire. Demand they make good on their promises. Raise hell.

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