The perceptive Jane Galt has an interesting analysis of the fractured nature of today’s Democratic party and how that has made it difficult for Democrats to coalesce around a candidate right now.
The Democrats… are a veritable festival of interest groups: unions, teachers, minorities, feminists, gay groups, environmentalists, etc. Each of these groups has a litmus test without which they will not ratify a candidate: unfettered support for abortion, against vouchers, against ANWAR drilling, whatever. A lot of groups means a lot of litmus tests, because with the possible exception of the teachers, no one group is powerful enough to swing an election by themselves.
Republicans, she argues, only have to appease two interest groups, fiscal and social conservatives.
Fiscal conservatives will, by and large, allow you to throw a bone to the social conservatives so long as you do it somewhere the fiscal conservatives don’t have to look at, such as prisons and homeless shelters, or small towns in Alabama. The small towns in Alabama, so long as they are left alone and not asked to celebrate gay wedding ceremonies next to the crèche in the town square, will generally leave the fiscal conservatives to their own devices except during the annual farm-subsidy festival. These two groups do not agree, but there are only two of them, and there are enough issues on which they do agree that they can generally carve out a reasonably coherent platform. (Reasonably coherent, that is, for American politics). And because their members often shade from one group to the next (such as a near relative who is for gay rights, but against gay marriage, and generally fiscally conservative, but in favor of a Medicare drug bill), there is some tolerance in the party for dissent from the platform.