Over at Madville, Cory has spent a lot of time working through strategies for the Democrats to regroup and grow. Pat Powers has shed a few nostalgic crocodile tears about a time when Democrats were competitive. I'll add my two cents to the discussion.
First, to play Captain Obvious, elections matter. Legislative elections during sessions that determine redistricting matter more than most. Republicans won elections and did a great job of creating districts that marginalized Democrats. Democrats need to win elections that will allow them to control either the state senate or the state house before the next redistricting.
Second, conservatives in 2014 are more conservative than Ronald Reagan and liberals in 2014 are more liberal than George McGovern. Moderates in 2014 are an endangered species unless one counts pragmatism or the overhyped political term triangulation as a moderate principle.
Third, Matt Varilek and Rick Weiland prove that former staffers will likely not win.
Fourth, campaigning on education is a fool's errand. Voters may claim to care about education. They may actually care about education, but in the voting booth other issues dominate.
Fifth, winners win. Right now, Democrats have won about twenty legislative seats, a Sioux Falls mayor, and a former congresswoman whom the party may or may not wish to reject. Democrats need to win city, count, and school board elections. (Let's leave aside for the moment the fiction that those elections are non-partisan.)
Sixth, politics is played by competitive people. If Democrats provide no competition, Republicans will turn on themselves. That event, while entertaining, is also likely to produce some terrible policies.
I don't have any real answers for Democrats, but it took them a long time come to this state, It will take them a long time to rebuild.