I wasn't sure what to call this post, but I think that the title will do. Now that the Democrats are holding their convention, we're seeing a lot of big articles in the press that address the problems that the party faces. Here are two that I think are especially worth reading.
First, if you want to begin to understand some of the problems that are still affecting the Democratic party, then I suggest that you start with this article by Joshua Zeitz from American Heritage. It covers the 1964 Democratic convention, in particular the fight over who would represent Mississippi at the convention. The exodus of white Southerners from the Democratic party began in earnest in 1964. This article helps to tell the story.
For more on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party and the drama of the 1964 convention, read the first chapter of Ronald Radosh's Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996 (New York: The Free Press, 1996). Radosh's account is somewhat more politically charged than Zeitz's (which is hardly surprising, if you know Radosh's work), but Zeitz's piece contains many interesting anecdotes that you won't find in Radosh's chapter. I then recommend that you read Radosh's book in its entirety.
Second, Rick Perlstein, author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001), has written an extended piece on what he thinks the long-term vision of the Democratic party should be, even though he deliberately avoids detailed policy recommendations. Some form of economic populism is required, he argues, which lines Perlstein up with Thomas Frank, as far as I can see.