There's some excellent work here on the left's relative timidity by Michael Tomasky in the American Prospect. I might comment more later, but for right now I'll just highlight this one important paragraph:
For the better part of two decades now, Democrats have operated according to so timorous a model of partisanship that they no longer know how to fight. They know how to argue policy. They do that quite well, and indeed they often win those arguments, if for no other reason than that so many of the policies Republicans support harken back (if I may) to the Gilded Age. But when it comes to hardball partisan politics, they've been fighting a raging fire with a garden hose. They've been afraid, even petrified, of arguing politics, of stepping outside the comparatively safe zone of policy and assertively debating the core principles that are the reason many of them enter the civic sphere to begin with. Arguing politics means challenging not only the other side's positions but the very moral and cultural underpinnings of those positions. It means using emotional arguments to link the opposition to a set of values alien to this country's best traditions. It means finding the symbolic representations of the enemy's masked agendas and exposing them. It means not only attacking the other side but defending one's own side (and not with statistics, but with moral arguments advanced with conviction). And, finally, it means doing all this on a permanent basis, day after day, with lots of warm bodies standing next to one another, saying the same thing over and over, until the media has to cover it. But all these are things the Democrats no longer know how to do.Word, dawg.