If politics is the way a society distributes resources then political contest is all about who takes from whom. The Democrats' goal in the next four years, then, is to return as much tax money as possible to its core states and set the GOP up for a fall in the next elections.
They can best do this not by running left, but by pushing the GOP right off a cliff.
The Federal GOP will spend the next four years trying to push a ban on gay marriage, overturning Roe v Wade, mandating creationism in education, forcing school vouchers and so on. To do this, they'll have to throw out one of their most effective ideological tenents: State's Rights.
There is a huge opportunity now for Democrats to seize this banner for themselves. Gay Marriage? Let the states decide. Education policy? State perogative. Health Care? State policy.
Liberal states will follow policies to protect our traditional values, but only if they are protected from Federal intervention. The goal of the Federal Democrats must be to provide that cover for liberal social policies. ...and to eliminate as many federal agencies as possible.
[Pot Notation: Fifteen states have passed propositions authorizing the use of medical marijuana. This is a no-lose issue in those states: the people decided, the DEA should get off their case. Bring back Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" arguments.]
For as long as I can remember Republicans have labled Democrats "Tax & Spenders". We know it's not true, and we remember Clinton's surplus. But if there was ever a time when reversing the line was so possible and risk-free, I don't know when it was.
By adopting a hardline that every budget must create a SURPLUS we do three things: (1) change the story to "Democrats are penny pinchers"; (2) restrain Republican pet projects; and, (3) set up a fiscal environment conducive to social spending down the road.
Every child born in the United States is given as his birthright over $30,000 in debt. If Democrats can't work up a convincing moral outrage about that, we're sunk.
Free Market/No Intervention
It's well known that Democratic states are Giver states; Republican States are Taker states. There is no good reason for Federal Democrats to allow the pillaging of their core states to continue.
Consider: In 2003 California recieved $0.78 for every dollar it paid in taxes; Alabama recieved $1.69 for every dollar it paid in taxes. New York $0.80, North Dakota $1.75. Washington $0.90, West Virginia $1.82. Wisconsin $0.84, Wyoming $1.13. Democratic states are paying Republican states... for what?
Federal Democrats should fight for a flat tax across all industries and a complete elimination of all federal subsidies, tax breaks, etc. Farm subsidies are an abominable perversion of the free market, and the welfare farmers vote Republican.
The only thing worse than tearing down the social welfare system built in the early part of the last century is letting the Federal GOP corrupt it from top to bottom. Liberals know that there is a need for the public provision of these public goods. They know that in their absence, there will be a demand they be provided. And they know that they are the party to fullfill that demand. Well, now's the time to cut supply.
When the Republican set out to privatize Medicare, Democrats should counter: "if the free market does it better, eliminate Medicare." When Republicans set out to privatize Social Security, Democrats should counter: "if individuals do it better, sent them their share and eliminate Social Security." When Republicans move to cut funding for Section 8 and Welfare, Democrats should counter: "if it's corrupting and evil, eliminate it."
The outcome in four years is predictable, inevitable and, for liberals, glorious: An angry impoverished people demanding the government do something to help. (Except in those liberal states which decided to offset federal cuts.)
You have to collect the card before you can have a New Deal. The goal for the next four years is to set it up by depriving the system of Roosevelt's legacy. Then we get to remind middle America why they used to vote Democratic.
As usual, open to suggestions...