|The United States Capitol (Flickr/Dray-Dray)|
This has been the 21st century Democrat's problem: lack of party unity. It's not necessarily the Democratic Party's fault, because in order to have such a large party that aims to be as inclusive as possible you're bound to have some intraparty disagreements. When you have an opponent in George Bush (read: Dick Cheney and Karl Rove) who is able to keep their party in lockstep, convincing the nation to go to war with a country we had no business warring with while eroding civil liberties in the name of safety, it is going to be very difficult to rally any party together to fight it, especially the Democrats. But in 2008 the Dems did just that and then blew it as only the Democrats can.
But they've been handed a bit of luck, as the pre-2006 Republican Party simply does not exist. It is plagued by the infighting that doomed Obama's domestic legislative agenda from 2008-2010. The fact that the two of the past three State of the Union addresses had two Republican responses, one official and the other unsanctioned, is evidence of that on a macro level. The drama around the Boehner speaker vote can point to this on a micro level. Simply put, the Republican party is in crisis.
The worst part of the whole thing for Republicans is that now is the time to reinvent the party, but instead of coming up with a more dynamic platform to speak to the younger generation disillusioned by Obama's Bush-esque foreign policy and drama-filled presidency (whether he is to blame for the latter is another question), they move further to the right. Their 2012 candidates were embarrassing. They chose to put forth Mitt Romney, one of the most boring and out of touch individuals in recent history (honestly, I'd probably rather have a drink with Al Gore, which is saying a lot) and Paul Ryan, who got smoked by a much-ridiculed and jokey VP Biden in an embarrassing debate. Throw in your fringe candidates who were not distanced enough from the party (Richard Murdouck, Todd Akin) and you're bound to lose favor with the nation, even self-described Republicans. We're starting to see this occur.
Here's what the Republican Party needs to do: drop the culture war and stop with the self-victimization over social issues. Obama is not a Marxist, gay marriage will not ruin yours, and as much as it may pain the Republican Party to hear it, separation of church and state is a major part of this country's founding. Until the GOP realizes this, there will be no groundswell movement of young, disillusioned voters to their side of the aisle. Until Rush Limbaugh and Fox News talking heads no longer hold so much power in the party, masses of young people will steer clear from the GOP.
There can be two ways for the current dual-party system to go. One of the parties can adapt and bring in a fed up, young generation of voters and dominate until at least 2020. Or a new party can emerge - maybe a coalition of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats (again, as long as they're not overly focused on some made up culture war) who feel their parties are missing out on a huge opportunity for votes (and they'd be right). If the two parties increase the polarization we've seen in Washington, Juan Linz may have to update his famous piece on presidential democracy. Let's hope we don't get to that point.
Correction 22 February 2013: A previous version of this post said that VP Biden smoked Ron Paul in a debate, when in reality it was Paul Ryan who was embarrassed that night.