If I've said this once, I've said this a million times, and recent conversations with "progressive" friends only make me feel the need to repeat myself again.
(As a side note, being a resident of CT means 90% of my friends fall left-of-center, and the other 10% are apolitical)
The Republican Party has three parts to it - co-opt a part, and the Democrats would be able to not lose another election. In other words, they would have to toss out the far left, but the center-right bonus would be much greater than the loss.
1. Quit favoring unconditional abortion. There are two parts to this where you don't have to completely forsake your base. You can still BE pro-abortion, but not unconditionally.
A) Quit talking about the constitutional right to privacy (I'm talking to YOU, senator Chris Dodd) or abortion. Regardless of the legality of abortion or not, it's not in there. Overturning Roe v. Wade sends it back to the states. It doesn't make abortion illegal. Even USA Today messed that up (though I hesitate to say the paper deliberately misled readers by writing that overturning Roe would make abortion illegal, the thought crossed my mind) Tell voters that women should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies when it comes to a vote, but don't use the word "Right".
B) Democratic Politicians - give up Dilation & Evacuation/Curretage. For those unfamiliar with this, it is one of the medical terms for partial-birth abortion. This practice is in a word, abhorrent. Medical Science should be looking for an alternative for D&E constantly. The loss of the NOW/NARAL factions who would bolt just because you oppose this is nothing compared to the benefit to be gained.
2. Be Hawkish, but quit saying that we need more troops. When you say "more troops", we think "Draft", and although it was the Democratic Party accusing the President of wanting to reinstate the draft, it was Democratic Congressmen who introduced the bill into committee. Nice try. Point out that the theocratic/fascistic Islamic regimes are persecuting women and gays and blacks. (Darfur, anyone?) As liberals, that's the kind of thing you're supposed to be against. To oppose the war just because you wish a Democrat was in office and getting the props for it is execrable, just as it was in the 1990's. However, I don't remember a documentary being released condemning Bill Clinton and basically sliming the military. Saddam Hussein has probably killed more innocent Muslims than anyone else alive. Don't you take issue with that?
Country loyalty comes before party loyalty, and people on the left have a lot harder time realizing this than people on the right. Instead of having the Democrat's weekly radio address be a strong rebuke to President Bush, have it be a strong rebuke to Iran. Or Saudi Arabia. Or Mauritania. Tell your base "Quit comparing people to Hitler. Leave that invective for the other guys. If you make a "Chimpy 'The Shrub' McHitlerBurton" comment, we have no use for you.
3. This is the most important one, and could probably put a gigantic dent in the Republican party if the Democrats co-opted it. You'll never guess what it is.
Embrace. The. Free. Market.
Yes, I know. It's heresy. Too bad. America is Capitalism is America, and as long as that's the case, we will remain a world power. The road to Socialism and Marxism is a road to a declining society, as the failure to reach replacement birthrates in Europe will attest. The Democrats who approved CAFTA should be commended. The more free the markets, the more free the people. Exporting freedom and capitalism is easily the best thing for the world at large. Take Japan and India, for example. While India is rather socialist, it is easily more capitalist friendly than China or any Sub-Saharan Socialist country. Japan has learned well in the last 60 years and is basically an example of what other countries SHOULD be doing. Except without all the papering over the Rape of Nanking and Getting Nuked stuff, that is.
The Republicans (not Rethugs or Repugs - be civilized) have not exactly been paragons of Fiscal Responsibility lately. The Democrats really never have been - but that can change, of course. And I don't mean pseudo-calculated free-market politcal embracers (Hillary). I mean someone who would tell Bernie Sanders to "shove it" instead of Howard Dean telling us that Sanders is basically "a liberal democrat." Someone who could tell Sanders to "shove it" is a Democrat I could vote for.
Now, if the Democratic Party did all three of these things, it wouldn't look much like the Democratic Party of today, but it would certainly win Congress back as well as the White House. Plus, a Democratic majority in a house of Congress would cause the Republicans to get serious about fiscal responsibility as well, as it did during the 80's to mid-90's.
Two serious parties - it's an ideal worth checking into.