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This Party is Over
by John Caruso
November 5, 2004
The Distant Ocean

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Yes, they really did blow it. Consider the mind-numbing reality here: the Democratic Party, as led by the DLC, has now lost the White House twice to George Bush. No, really: George Bush! Yes, really: two times. I swear I'm not making this up.

Not only that, but they somehow managed to do even worse in 2004 than they did in 2000, despite the fact that Bush now had a record as president -- and a record of lies, disastrous policy decisions, and utter incompetence to boot. And they don't even have the consolation of wailing about the unfairness of the electoral college, since Kerry not only lost the electoral college but also failed to win the popular vote (not by a slim margin, either, but by millions of votes). And the Democrats lost seats in both the House and Senate as well.

Let's all take a moment to recall now that Kerry was chosen and championed by the Democratic elite (and then marketed to and accepted by the rank and file) because he was "electable." Sure, he was no progressive, but he was electable. Yes, he was an Iraq hawk in a party with more than 90% doves, but he was electable. Ok, he was a USA PATRIOT Act backer in a party galvanized by its opposition to that grotesque assault on our liberties, but he was electable. So good people set aside their beliefs, chucked their values in the closet, and gave Kerry their support in spite of their serious misgivings about him--and all because he was supposedly electable. Winning mattered more than anything else, and the formula for winning (so we were informed) was to back John Kerry to the hilt and keep your damn mouth shut, despite the fact that many of Kerry's policies looked just like Bush's.

I remember the first thing I heard from Kerry in regards to the presidential election. MoveOn had just solicited statements from the Democratic contenders as to why MoveOn members should support them. Kerry's main reason? That he would work to keep abortion legal. Faced with one of the worst US presidents of all time and a host of issues he might have hammered home or used to differentiate himself, Kerry chose the most safe, hackneyed, predictable Democratic rhetoric he could muster. That was when I first realized that I could not support John Kerry. And that was why, when I heard all these dubious claims that he was more electable than mildly (and I stress "mildly") progressive candidates like Howard Dean, I just shook my head in disbelief. Could the Democrats possibly be foolish enough to repeat their disastrous strategy of 2000?

Yes, they could.

The Democrats have labored for years now under the delusion that they could win elections by endlessly pursuing the "center." The Republicans, on the other hand, realize that in order to win, you have to shift the "center" towards you. Put the two together and you see that the "center" the Democrats have been pursuing has been steadily moved to the right by the Republicans. Unless and until the Democratic Party resolves to become a true opposition party and undertake the difficult work (now much more difficult, after so many years of neglect) of shifting the frame of debate in this country away from the right, it will continue to lose elections. And we will all suffer the results--not just for the next four years, but quite possibly for decades.

In short: this Party is over.

John Caruso is a San Francisco Bay Area technical consultant and progressive activist.  He was one of the contributors to Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion 2002. Visit his excellent weblog to view more of his writings at: He can be reached at:

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