This column in the New York Times by Adam Nagourney and Sheryl Stolberg quotes Democratic leaders who lament the missed opportunities and woeful state of the current Democratic party. These pols and party leaders believe that the Bush administration is weakened and that they should be poised to sweep the field in November, but for the reasons they adumbrate, they're just not likely to pull it off. The article has received a lot of acclaim, even from conservatives, and is worth the time to read.
Our take, though, is that much of what the Democrats quoted in the Times' piece are complaining about is really symptomatic of a more fundamental crisis within the party. Their problem is this: There are basically two kinds of Democrats. There are those who deep down know that were they president they probably would have read the intelligence reports on WMD in Iraq the same as Bush did and privately, at least, don't really blame him for taking the action he did. Nor do they really fault him for the messy post-war situation because a lot of it was unforseeable and some of it has been overblown. Nor do they blame him for the NSA surveillance that he's authorized. They know that were they in his shoes they'd probably do the same thing. They also have to acknowledge that his economic measures have brought us out of a recession and have given us a healthy economy, at least in the near term. In other words, Bush's policies have not been very much different than what a moderate Democrat might himself endorse if he were president.
The second kind of Democrat, by contrast, is fervently anti-war, anti-tax cut, anti-Patriot act, pro-appeasement, pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, and pro-socialism.
The first group, the moderates, can't present a significant alternative to the American people because they simply don't have one. They're reduced to criticizing Bush around the margins, but largely they have no voice because whatever they would advance as policy is not substantively different from what the president is already doing.
The second kind of Democrat has a dramatic alternative to Bush's policy but they dare not present it in toto to the American people, at least not ingenuously, because they know the American people would contemptuously reject it. Thus, they're left with no recourse but to either shut up, which they won't do, or to so vilify and smear Bush that if people won't vote to elect them at least they'll vote to eject him and his party.
They're blinded by their contempt for Bush personally and frustrated by their inability to thwart him. Driven by their loathing, they emerge regularly in the media to disparage his administration in the most uncivil, hate-filled accents, and to seek to salvage whatever political victories they may by whatever means necessary, whether it be through obstructionism, personal vilification, or perhaps, should they win enough seats in 2006, impeachment. If their only motivations were hate and a lust for power they would behave in no different fashion than the one in which they are presently behaving. Their behavior conveys the clear impression that the nation's welfare and that of its people is not for them a genuine, or at least not a primary, concern.
The fundamental problem for the Democratic party, then, is that those who could wield power have no clear alternative to what Bush is doing to offer the voters, and those who have a clear alternative are not attractive, either in terms of the image they present nor in terms of the alternative they offer. Compounding the problem is that it is this latter group which dominates and controls the levers of power within the party.
The only solution to this crisis is for the party to sever its left wing, to rid themselves of the influence of the extremists in the blogosphere and Hollywood, and to mute liabilities like Howard Dean, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, et al. Even this, however, is a measure fraught with dangers. Should the left, disenchanted with, or divorced from, the Democratic party, start up a third party with their not inconsiderable bankrollers, it would siphon away so many votes from the Democrats that they'd be relegated to permanent minority status.
It seems as if no matter what they do they lose unless Bush is caught in some scandal. It's a shame that they've come to the point where their only hope of finding favor with the electorate is that the other guy disgrace himself.