The assistant Republicans

It was the Democrats who started the madness of Nevada’s early caucuses, and we considered offering a Democratic endorsement. Instead, we decided to offer some thoughts on what is really at stake—not the selection of a candidate but the future of the Democratic Party.

For decades, the Democratic Party has drifted from its traditional mission. In the 1960s, Robert Kennedy warned of the increasing bankruptcy of Great Society-style liberalism. In 1972, Jack Newfield and Jeff Greenfield observed that since 1952, the party had slowly abandoned the working poor: “The Democratic Party, the traditional party of reform, began to move away from the working masses, began to take on an elitist approach … began to abandon its traditional role of representing the needs of the workers.”

The party did not listen. As the years passed, it left low-income workers behind, and the party became a corporate vehicle for money and power. In policy terms, this forced the Democrats to become more and more a pallid version of the Republicans. A two-party system that was supposed to offer a choice was subverted.

When Congress voted on the use of force in Iraq and the public looked to the opposition party, the Democrats Party failed to serve as one.

When George Bush proposed “No Child Left Behind,” the Democrats offered faint quibbling on details.

When Republicans get aggressive on the drug war, the Democrats always outdo them.

When Republicans bash immigrants, the Democrats fearfully fall silent or join in.

When Republicans passed legislation making bankruptcy more difficult without first doing anything about predatory financial corporations, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada joined them.

When Bush and the Republicans passed the anti-privacy Real ID and PATRIOT Act, the Democrats agreed.

When Republicans engage in class warfare against workers, they inevitably accuse Democrats of class warfare, and the Democrats disintegrate in the face of what should be a proud term.

Journalist Robert Scheer wrote last week about “the Clinton White House’s giveaways to corporate America at the expense of poor and working Americans, the majority of them being women.”

There’s no better symbol of the party’s timidity than Hillary Clinton on March 14, 2006, when reporters tried to question her about a senate resolution to censure George Bush. According to the Washington Post, “she tried to hide from reporters behind the 4-foot-11 [Sen.] Barbara Mikulski (Md.).”

The Democrats whine that the Republicans threaten filibusters, and Bush threatens vetoes, though Democrats during Bush I and Republicans during Lyndon Johnson still managed to prevail time after time.

Democratic policies are so little different from the Republicans that the party doesn’t campaign on them, instead seeking electoral success by waiting for periods like the current one when the GOP is unpopular so Democrats can gain office by default.

We have no idea whether Obama or Clinton or Edwards are better equipped to do something about this state of affairs, nor does it matter. The party’s problems go deeper than just who becomes president. The Democratic Party is barely worth fighting for anymore.