This E.J. Dionne op-ed on the problems within the Democratic Party is not great (it is typical of him to have an insight, yet not a real argument toward it), but it does see something serious in this, his last, paragraph:
"The contest for the 2004 Democratic nomination cannot be understood apart from two factors. One is the intense opposition to Bush at the Democratic grass roots. The other is the widely held sense that the party’s older strategies and internal arguments are inadequate to its current problems. Candidates can’t win if they address only one of these concerns. But addressing both at the same time will require a political magic that Democrats haven’t seen yet."
The intense opposition to a sitting president of the other party is a good thing, in my opinion. They ought to be able to build on that by coming up with arguments and proposals that are contrary (in some way) to the sitting president and the party he represents. The crux of the matter is his second point that the older strategies are inadequate to the current problems. What does "older strategies and internal arguments" really mean? If the older strategies/internal arguments means the same old Democratic Party made up of many factions with nothing holding them together save a kind of negative, i.e., we are opposed to anyone who questions the New Deal/Great Society consensus, plus of course, all the social concerns added unto it since the late ’60s (compare GOP "strategies and internal arguments" of say the 1950’s which were similarly, mutatis mutandis, negative) against the GOP positive, then all they have left is to look for a person who--somehow--in his own person gives them something like that. The closest the Demos have come to this in a while (since FRD) is Kennedy and the second is Clinton. And arguably both really represented a too personal and personalized solution to the problem (rather than, say, a philosophical one that Goldwater represented and whose principles, even in defeat, persisted to run the party). That’s the "political magic" that Dionne is talking about. It has not yet appeared for the Demos, it doesn’t look like any of the current nine has it, and hence the Clinton(s) keep reappearing. The greater philosophical problem at the heart of the Democratic Party keeps itself hidden because everyone is looking for "political magic," i.e., finding a person who can hold the discreet factions together long enough to win elections.