I have been thinking about how far to the right the democrats are, along with the role of occupy, and the tea-party, as well as the role of solidarity. My thoughts are built on top of a few core concepts, the first is how a smoothly running two party democracy leads to voter apathy, low turnout, and two candidates that are almost identical. This set of ideas was brought to my attention by Danny Hilles' article [ http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/hillis_democracy/hillis_p1.html (annoyingly broken up into many pages. clearly formerly a powerpoint) ]. This article won't make sense if you don't read the link.
The core concept is that to maximize their chance of getting elected a party should run a candidate that is just a smidge different from the opposing candidate. When both parties are playing this game you end up exactly in the middle, the "best position". So the interesting thing about this model is that if one party starts running candidates who are not in the "best position" (effectively not playing to win) but their opponents are then the opponents will shift over to their side, past the "best position" marker.
It appears to me that this is an effect of the Tea party. It is blackmailing the republican party into shifting further to the right by threatening to launch a spoiler candidate. The Republicans have given in to that pressure, and allowed a gap to open between them and the actual center, a void which the Democrats have happily moved in to fill.
The result is, oddly, a landslide victory for the Democrats, but a set of policy that is actually further to the right than what we would have in the case of a "playing to win" republican candidate. As a liberal buddy of mine once said... "Obama is the republican I would have liked to loose to". You can see these thought's echoed in the mainstream press as well. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/obama-revealed-a-moderate...
That's where the Overton window comes in [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window ] . We usually think about moving the Overton window by introducing extreme new opinions out on the sides. In the current US case, the window has been shifted because it's center moved. The result is that on the left, things that were previously sensible have become radical (I.E. a single payer healthcare system)
So the next question is Why didn't a similar thing happen with the Democrats in response to the Occupy movement. I'm going to have to come back to that in a few, but I think it's because of the lack of willingness to inflict self-harm for principals. A very powerful thing within signaling theory [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signaling_theory ]