Much of the complaining about the outcome of the election -- particularly the hand-wringing, garment-rending, and teeth-gnashing inspired by the disclosure (in those exit polls that managed to get hardly anything else right) that it was "moral issues" that brought out the margin of victory in Ohio and elsewhere -- amounts to little more than the zealots on one side being upset that the zealots on the other side have the upper hand for the moment. (There are exceptions, of course, such as the thoughtful meditations here.)
My view is that zealotry itself is the larger problem and that the substance of the respective zealots' causes is strictly secondary. Consider, to take just one example, the fabulously unhelpful results of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform: unable any longer to find its way into the coffers of the fearful, cautious bores at the national Party Committees, a colossal sum of money instead flowed to the dread 527's, MoveOn, the SwiftVets and their ilk. Instead of improving the tenor of our national debate, finance reform has thus far only succeeded in handing the keys to the Debatemobile to the most wild-eyed and irresponsible operators available. (I dearly love the First Amendment and tend to be an absolutist about it, but the campaign just past reminds us that the right and opportunity for every political view to find expression is both the First Amendment's beauty and its horror.)
All of which is merely prologue to my quoting someone else.
Suggesting that everyone, particularly unhappy Democrats, should simply calm down for a moment, Jesse Walker points the way to an alternative politics in which, perhaps, more of us would manage to play well with others:
Once they're calm, those Democrats should take a look in the mirror.... The dominant species of liberal doesn't just want to maintain the old taboos; it wants to introduce some new ones. For many Americans, the Democrats are the party that hates their guns, cigarettes, and fatty foods (which is worse: to rename a french fry or to take it away?); that wants to impose speed limits on near-abandoned highways; that wants to tell local schools what they can or can't teach. There is no party of tolerance in Washington -- just a party that wages its crusades in the name of Christ and a party that wages its crusades in the name of Four Out Of Five Experts Agree. I say fie on both.
Here's an idea for liberals looking for a political project: Team up with some hard-core conservatives and make a push for states' rights and local autonomy. If you have to get the government involved in everything under the sun, do it on a level where you'll have more of a popular consensus. Aim for a world where it won't matter what Washington has to say about who can marry who and whether they can smoke after sodomy. Then, in 2008, the presidential election can turn on something national -- like, say, foreign policy.