- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

The United States is in danger of becoming a one-party nation. This may happen not by an old-fashioned coup d’etat in which the opposition party is purged but by a suicidal Democratic leadership that has purged itself. Even after the disastrous Kerry presidential campaign, Democratic leaders still act as if September 11, 2001 and Nov. 2, 2004, are unrelated.

During summer’s national party nominating conventions, the New York Times asked delegates what they regarded as the key issues. These were the results:

? Two percent of Democrats compared to 15 percent of Republicans mentioned terrorism as a key issue.

? Homeland security? Democratic delegates, 1 percent compared with 8 percent of Republicans.

? Defense? One percent of Democrats mentioned defense, 15 percent of Republicans.

Perhaps because most Americans still see the GOP as the party more concerned with security, at home and abroad, they voted for the Republicans. And, judging from the delegates at the two conventions, that perception is correct.

The Democratic Party’s future is a matter of concern to one of the party’s elder statesmen, former Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt. Asked in a New York Times interview if he bought “the idea that the Democrats are on the verge of not being a national party,” he replied:

“I don’t believe that. I do think that we have to do two things to be successful. One we’ve got to speak to values and people’s faith. Secondly, I think we need to do grass-roots politics better than we’ve ever done.”

In other words, the Democratic Party is on the verge of not being a national party, as Mr. Gephardt, in emphasizing the obvious, is telling us and his fellow Democrats that the party has not spoken to “values” and “people’s faith” and has failed at grass-roots politics. Or to put it another way, the Democrats have depended on Michael Moore to do their grass-roots politics. Jimmy Carter bestowed a dubious honor on Mr. Moore: he invited this humorless clown to sit in the former president’s box at the Democratic National Convention this year.

In a new century, all the country’s major power centers are in Republican hands: White House, Senate, House of Representatives, a majority of governors and state legislatures and, arguably, the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s not the way it once was in the last century. In the pre-Franklin Roosevelt era, the Democratic Party was run by a collection of powerful urban political machines — Tammany Hall in New York City run by political bosses like Christy Sullivan and his partner Judge Maxie Levine, and in the post-World War II era by Carmine De Sapio, the Daley machine in Chicago or Boss Crump in Tennessee.

With civil service reform, the federal government began to go after corruption in the cities. Reformers at the turn of the century had established local civil service systems as replacements for party patronage in government employment.

By the 1960s, only a small number of traditional political machines remained in the United States, largely in cities such as Chicago where Democratic Boss Daley had been able to escape the ravages of civil service reform and patronage for loyal Democrats was still possible. And elsewhere, between 1968 and 1972, Democratic Party reformers undermined the remaining machines. In Manhattan, where Tammany Hall once reigned, the machine was driven from power by the mayor-to-be Ed Koch. And in Greater New York City, a historic Democratic Party bastion, Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, was elected twice followed by a “nonpartisan” Michael Bloomberg.

The Democratic Party could once claim an unbreakable hold on a majority of the nation’s municipalities, state capitols and Washington, D.C. Today the Democratic Party is a collection of ideologues as it was in 1972 when presidential nominee George McGovern led it to an ignominious defeat, receiving 29,170,000 votes to Richard Nixon’s 47,170,000. Had Bill Clinton behaved like Mr. McGovern he would still be practicing law and adultery in Arkansas.

With John Kerry, the Democratic Party returned to its old suicidal habits. That’s why I say the United States is in danger of becoming a one-party nation.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times. His updated biography “Herman Wouk, the Novelist as Social Historian,” has just been published.

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