If George W. Bush wins a second term, it is likely that whatever factors will have moved swing voters into his column will also suffice to keep Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. Progressives, who had banded together with Democratic centrists in an unprecedented and deeply felt display of unity, will then be faced with a choice whose importance is hard to underestimate.
They can decide that candidate Kerry lost because he did not commit fully enough to liberal principles, and turn their backs on coalition-building. But this would be unwise. The crucial divide will be between those who understand it's the infrastructure, stupid, and those who don't.
Those in the Democratic camp and the rational liberal-left who believe in long-term institutional politics should conclude that they could not possibly have compensated for 30-plus years of right-wing base-building with one year's fever of anti-Bush resolve. They should, like the Republican Party after the Goldwater cataclysm of 1964, sigh, shudder, mourn--and organize. They'll pick themselves up and get back to work building their start-up think tanks and media and Internet networks, from the Center for American Progress through Air America Radio through MoveOn.org and various 527 soft money distributors, all of which, despite starting late, made up for a good deal of Democratic organizational weakness in 2004.