If I were a political consumer, I would -- with apologies to the late Monty Python parrot -- be going back to the store right about now and registering a complaint: "This political party -- the Democratic Party. It's dead."
"No, no, no no," he replies, "it's just resting."
But I know a dead party when I see one, and I'm looking at a dead party right now. Just consider the past eight years: lost the presidency, both houses of Congress, almost all its majorities in state legislatures, most governorships. Will lose additional House seats in the next redistricting. Most of the current justices of the Supreme Court appointed by Republicans, also most current federal judges. And the interminable Bill Clinton scandals. The Democratic Party is stone dead. Dead as a doornail.
Not at all, he says. After all, the Democrats are only one seat away from taking over the Senate. If Katherine Harris and the Supreme Court hadn't mucked it up, Al Gore would be in the White House right now. He won the popular vote by a half-million. Democrats and Greens together won more than 3 million more votes than the Republicans. And the Dems raised as much soft money as the Republicans for the first time in history. Forget the Clinton unpleasantness. The public will forget it. It always does. The party's not dead, "just resting."
Maybe, or perhaps it's stunned, lying there inert with less than two years to go until the midterms. Simply can't get over not having Bill Clinton in the White House.
But just you wait, say the party's salesmen: Someone will emerge to bring it back to life.
Look, the only reason the Democratic Party is sitting upright is that it's been nailed there, like the Python parrot. Who speaks for the Democrats? Clinton is utterly disgraced. Gore ran a lousy campaign. Terry McAuliffe heads the Democratic National Committee only because he raised a ton of money for Clinton.
And don't tell me the Democratic Leadership Council, with all that talk about being from the vital center -- why, even Hillary joined up -- is going to revive this bird. The DLC stands for nothing, nada, zero, except it's anti-union. No grass roots. No troops. No one out in America cares about the DLC. The DLC says it's centrist, but centrism is wherever the polls say most Americans are. And most Americans drift wherever there's a lot of hullabaloo. Centrism is unprincipled. Centrism doesn't lead. It follows. Centrism is Dick Morris. Centrism is nowhere.
If the Democratic Party's alive, why doesn't it insist that the budget surplus be spent on health care for the 44 million Americans without it? And child care for the millions who lack it? And good schools for all kids? Why doesn't the party say it's plain absurd to spend $300 billion on the military when the Cold War is over, and tens of billions more on a missile-defense shield that won't work? Why isn't it outraged that most of the benefits of President Bush's tax cut will go to people at the top? Why does it play dead on the environment? Why? Because it's not playing dead. It is dead!
The Dems aren't even fighting for campaign finance reform. They got so much soft money last time that they've decided to hold on.
This party is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker. This is an ex-party!
The writer was secretary of labor from 1993 to 1997 and is the author of "The Future of Success."
© 2001 The Washington Post Company