We may be in for an actual reassessment by the Left. Right now, it's so folded in on its current set of canalized thought patterns that intellectually it's awfully weak. A huge Tea Party rallies against the Obama Agenda? Must be racist. Delaware Senate candidate gaffes? Must be an idiot. Woman works hard, and makes it in the political world without inheriting power from her rich husband? Palin Derangement Syndrome.
All of this is pretty disappointing for a group that fancies itself smarter than the rest of us. And while they typically do have a sort of book learning intelligence, their education has generally been so hollowed out by a Politically Correct curriculum that they can't think effectively. As Paul Marks said:
The function of a university (as explained by Gramsci and Marcuse) is to produce minds indoctrinated with 'progressive' thought - so indoctrinated that any ideas that are hostile to the cause will be rejected by them (without consideration) ...And so November is going to be a shock to them. Just two years after their Grand Ideological Triumph, they'll be forced to stare into the Abyss, and grapple with the realization that their Grand Ideological Triumph wasn't. That what they've been assuming for years (decades, really) simply isn't in touch with reality. That rather than being the Vanguard of society, they've wandered well and truly into the wilderness.
Some - perhaps most - won't, of course. They'll console themselves with visions of the Tea Party cannibalizing the Republican party, and dream that just a better PR campaign - repackaging old wine in new bottles - will be all it will take to get them to victory. These are the second rate intellects, and we can ignore them. They'll keep doing the Old Thing, thinking the Old Thoughts, and so will keep losing.
But I think that there are some sharp minds on the Left, and that some of these will stare into that Abyss, and will realize that public school indoctrination and a monopoly of the MSM will no longer win the nation's hearts and minds. They'll realize that the size of this defeat means that the country did not sweep Barack Obama to power because they bought the whole leftist agenda. They'll realize that the size of the defeat means that the old coalition of Unions, Public Employees, (some) minorities, and radical feminism couldn't stave off a crushing electoral loss. They'll realize that there is a massive distrust of government, and that better spin is simply throwing gasoline on the flames.
Some of these folks will start to reassess their first principles. For the first time since at least Daniel Patrick Moynahan, we will see actual Intellectuals emerge on the left.
It's not at all clear what this will look like, or what form it will take. However, there are two factors that will be absolutely core to any successful movement, and which are explicitly "Open Source" in nature, and being used explicitly by the Tea Parties*:
Decentralization. Right now, the Left is married to a pseudo-Stalinist giantism. Big Environment, Big Labor, big, organized, hierarchial, top-down. The Tea Party will be instructive, at least to the smarter leftists, who will remember that the big wins of the 20th Century came from disorganized, grass roots, bottoms up movements. While the current Big Left excels at "astroturf" movements (fake grass roots), the smart ones will recognize the power of the bottoms up approach.
Transparency. The Tea Party movement would never have gone anywhere if it didn't have a small set of simply ideas that resonate with huge numbers of people. The Left doesn't have this - what they have is a shopping cart of issues that motivate favored constituencies that have provided a Top Down "New Soviet Man" set of "industrial" political power. Because of this, the Left has lost the battle of ideas - all of the interesting intellectual thought has been on the Right for more than a couple of decades. So this is where to look for the Renaissance of the Left.
I can't for the life of me predict which ideas will emerge from the debate that will start to occur here. But I expect that what we'll see is an assault on the institutions of Political Correctness from within the Left - Campus Speech Codes, cries of "racisism" and "sexism", even the denigration of "Dead White Males". This is the "shopping cart" of issues, which are all hurting the Left now, and the smarter Leftists will see that. This will be a Young Turk rebellion that will gain traction with a younger generation sick of the ossified thought control imposed by their elders.
The current Organs Of The Left will be horrified, and will try to crack down; maybe the correct analogy isn't a Renaissance, but rather a Reformation and a subsequent attempt at Reaction. But the Internet serves the role of the Printing Press, and there'll be no jamming the signal.
Sadly, whatever emerges from this process will be no friend of small government libertarianism. But it will be intellectually vigorous, and this will be in great contrast to the current institutional left. It will find a way - by trial and error - to tap into the vein of American populism. How dangerous this will be is anyone's guess.
* This article on the Tea Parties is the smartest thing on the subject that I've seen. Thanks to Too Old To Work, Too Young To Retire for the pointer.