As I see it, we have two options in dealing with this deficient, bumbling, weak-kneed crew. 1) We get rid of them, work to take over the party from the grassroots up (similar to what the Republicans did after the Goldwater debacle of '64), and eventually bring some coherence and dynamic initiatives back into the party. Or, 2) We give up on the Democrats as an embarrassing joke, and begin thinking seriously about joining with others, similarly disenchanted with the political choices offerred, and found a viable third party.
There is another option: doing nothing, just continuing on as a rag-tag, undisciplined, weak OINO -- that's "Opposition In Name Only." But I think we all know that simply makes no sense. Being rolled regularly by the Republicans, or refusing to fight them in ways other than symbolic, gets old real fast.
OPTION#1: REFORMING FROM WITHIN
So it's possible that many young, and not-so-young, activists from the Democratic base can start reforming from within -- starting at the precinct and municipal level, emerging from state legislatures, moving into statewide offices, taking the leap to running for Congress and so on.
That kind of activist movement, whether coordinated or run on the fly by individuals, takes a tremendous amount of energy, courage, money, and clear-headed planning. It may require a decade or so to even begin to see demonstrable results. Can the Democratic Party afford the luxury of the decade or more it might take? Can the country handle the amount of Bush-like corruption, authoritarianism, wars, torture, moral lassitude that will transpire during that period while the foundation is being laid for a new, re-energized Democratic Party?
EDUCATION COMES FROM EVERYWHERE
In short, they were dead-serious about changing the system that had locked them out for so long. Their big-buck magnates and foundations (Coors, Scaife, Olin, et al.) footed the bill. And, eventually, as we know, they wound up taking over the Congress, the White House, much of the media -- and now are in the process of locking up the Judiciary as well.
Am I suggesting that we imitate the rightwing tactics and strategies -- and smash-mouth politics -- that brought them to power? No way. But, while not abandoning our morality and principles, we have much to learn from that level of commitment and tenacity and patience.
Are we in the Democratic "base" ready to sign on, to sign up, for that level of work and the dedicated slog it will take? Or will we remain a base that energizes itself every four years and then wonders why we keep getting blind-sided by an organization (Rove Inc.) that thinks, breathes, acts politics every waking second? Take your pick.
I think it's not necessarily too late to make the attempt to reform the party from within. But it is late, and it will require a humongous amount of toil, sweat, and lots of tears to turn this supertanker around and then bring this party back to speed and coherence and courage. We must first make the Democrats into a true party of opposition, and then convince the American people that it's capable of governing.
OPTION#2: REFORMING FROM WITHOUT
I can't tell you how many liberal friends have expressed the same thought to me in recent months, in variations of these words: The Democratic Party is, and probably will continue to be, an embarrassing disaster, and it's time to at least start thinking tentatively about political life without it. That is, a viable third party.