After reading the first little bit of this John Cole post, something occurred to me, a thought that I had had previously, but entirely forgotten about.
In the Democratic party, the base, the people who constitute the solid source of support and votes, are basically Good Democrats, normal citizens who aren't really all that involved in politics, but know which side their bread is buttered on, and show up to vote for them. Then there is the activist, politically inclined types, who are really into politics, and are always threatening to stay home or vote third party, and really claim to have no real oyalty to the Democratic Party itself (*cough*).
But in the Republican party it's basically the opposite, because the base is the Religious Right. That's where they get their votes, not from libertarians or free-market types. There's a huge chunk of the country that is basically votes on spreading an image Christianity across our apolitical culture. And like the far-left liberals, these people don't really care about the republican party itself, they want to republican party to start doing more of what they want, it doesn't, you know. And like the far-left liberals, they have no problem staying home or voting for a third party. They do not care about the party per se, they just care about what it has done for them lately. And in terms of distance from the American Center, the religious right is really just as extreme, if not more extreme, than more on the liberal left.
This basically explains the difference between the two parties, and their approaches to constituencies. The Democratic Part is always balancing between ignoring the left and doing some things in their favor, for the most part seeing how much they can just ignore them to gain swing voters without losing the election entirely by turning to many of the left away. So, the democrats often seem hesitant to embrace their left. Hence them almost never using the word abortion in ads. The right, on the other hand, can't afford to stick it to their fringe, because their fringe is their base. So that's why you get John McCain bending over backwards to court the religious right, because he automatically has no chance without them. I suspect that if John McCain had his druthers, he would be running the kind of moderate, idea-based campaign that he said he would. But the base hates him; he represents everything that they hate in the republican party, and there is an actual chance that they wouldn't show up to vote for him. So here he is turning himself into their ghoul, to protect their votes.
Personally I suspect that after this election the religious right will be done. Obama's triumph will prove once and for all that they are outside the mainstream, and are lethal to electoral success, and they Republican Party will soon dump them wholecloth, and start running on small-government libertarian and civil libertarians. It will be something like the party of Goldwater again. The Religious Right will go back to not caring about electoral politics, and slowly shrink as the combined forces of modernity and liberalism slowly tear their children out of the fold. These people are simply living in an outdated social model, one that cannot really exist in the first world, and the only reason it has been useful to these people—the sense of community, the social programs and daycare— is in dealing with the hardship caused by the party they have voted for. As those causes disappear, their children will drift away, seeing their parents' culture as not one they need to hold onto for themselves, and not worth preserving for posterity.