It has become quite apparent that when one party brands both itself and the other party while that
other party does neither, it puts the latter party in serious trouble. Such has been the case for decades
in American politics.
The Republican Party runs as the Conservative Party and attacks the Democratic Party as
"liberal." The Democratic Party on the other hand NEVER talks ideology. So when we had relatively
happy years during the Clinton 90s, it was never branded as a triumph of liberal or progressive policies.
In Republican presidential primaries, Republicans fall all over themselves to prove who is the most conservative, while Democrats avoid the "L" word and reluctantly even use the term 'progressive." In 2008, despite the utter failure of the Bush Administration, Obama never talked about the failure of Bush's "conservative" policies. Instead he talked about Bush policy failures. "Conservatism" was never branded a failure though it almost always is. On the other hand, liberalism is always an epithet. Democrats run from it.
So now, President Obama talks about not going back to the failed policies of the past--i.e. Bush. But he never says that those were "Conservative" policies. So when tea partiers say they are conservatives, there is no linkage in the general public's mind with the failed Conservative policies of the 00s.
When is a Democratic Party official going to make a speech excoriating conservatism as the wrong choice throughout American history--from slavery, segregation, women's rights. child labor laws, social security,
medicare, vietnam, environmental protections, et al. The only popular issues for conservatives where liberals
were on the losing side were welfare reform and death penalty/criminal justice issues. Bill Clinton smartly
co-opted these and now almost all national dems support the death penalty.
So the lack of branding of all the triumphs of liberalism including Clinton's 90s, and the lack of negative branding of Bush's failed conservatism puts us in the position we are now. Where even a reasonable liberal centrist like Obama is branded a tax and spend liberal at best and a communist at worst.
It seems as if we only win when they fail badly--Nixon, Bush I, Bush II. They can win even when we haven't fucked up--Bush in '00 (yes, I know he really lost, but it should not have been that close).
Until these things change we will never be in a strong position. We will always be relying on the failures of Republican administrations to win. And when things aren't going well while we are in charge, forget it, landslide losses.