My summary of the experience
It felt like being in a military campaign. In the aftermath, it feels like we had fought on the losing side of a war. I should quickly disclaim that anyone who has been in a real war might feel differently about the analogy (note to George "I have been to war" Bush: this doesn't include you).
There was an incredible amount of chaos and incredible hard work, and a feeling that if we only knew a little more about what we were doing, we could have been so much more effective. I heard some internal criticism of Kerry campaign in Florida, a feeling that it was being run in both too much of a top-down manner, but also with insufficient direction from the top. The sense was that there should have been less procedural control and more leadership. I don't really have the direct experience to say how serious or justified these criticisms are, and I don't think it's time to tear into anybody at the campaign. I certainly made my own share of mistakes.
So first, before I get too deep, I have a DVD recommendation: the four-disc Firefly TV series, from the creator of the Buffy and Angel television shows. As good as those two shows are, Firefly is even better. It follows the lives of some soldiers from a defeated army, living in a world where the wrong side won the war. Has some echoes to the current experience. I plan to watch it again. The series only lasted a year, but a movie is in the works.
Okay. Some thoughts on why people voted for Bush, and what we can do about it.
1. Argument in Bush voters' minds: 9/11 changed everything. Only a strong projection of military power and concomitant spread of the ideology of freedom will ultimately allow us to prevail over terrorism. While this is a simple concept, Kerry/the Democrats don't understand it and therefore will not protect America.
I think the response is 9/11 changed many things, but it did not change everything. Keeping such things as civil liberties and a decent respect for world opinion are still important. Democrats, and anyone with a brain, understand how important 9/11 was, but Democrats can also do a better job than the mismanaged job by Republicans. In 2006, it's time to tell Republicans to grow up - fighting terrorism is not a simple thing, as Iraq has proved.
2. Argument: You can't change leaders in the middle of a war.
Response: Why the hell not? The military does it - they sack military leaders all the time in the middle of actual wars when they're not performing. As I recall, they did it last year when one general wasn't being aggressive enough during major military operations. If you want more history, the North would have lost the Civil War if they had stuck with their terrible generals, instead of eventually getting Grant and Sherman in charge. Presidents should be sacked even more readily when the stakes are high and they are screwing up. Furthermore, the "war on terrorism", as Bush describes it, is not going to end in Iraq, so change is inevitable, and we might as well start soon with competent leadership. I think our response to this argument is to emphasize the military analogy - you sack bad leaders, fast.
Update: I suppose this argument and response doesn't matter much now that's the election's over. Still, the Reps might try to argue something like it in 2008, especially if they stumble into another war somewhere.
Variant argument: Bush got us into this mess in Iraq, and I'm re-electing him to make him go fix it.
I really have heard this variant. Our only response is to emphasize better education and child nutrition, to try and reduce the level of stupidity in our country.
3. Argument: We have to support moral values, to keep gay marriage from tearing apart the foundations of our country.
Not sure what to do about this, except to tough it out. People as individuals and as age classes are becoming less and less homophobic. There will be some negative repercussions from the worst homophobic amendments that passed, and people will notice that Massachusetts hasn't gone to hell. This will be a decreasing advantage for Republicans over the next 2 to 8 years, and afterwards it will be an albatross around their necks. They won't be able to pivot positions when homophobia is no longer a selling point, either, the evangelical right won't let them for several decades. It's in the Republican platform. Karl Rove may have elected his individual candidates, but he's severely harmed the Republicans in the long run.
So that's my argument, for what it's worth. The other part is to work on individual levels with Bush voters. I plan to convince my conservative brother-in-law that Reagan was bad. It's my starting point.