WANKIEST OP-ED COLUMN EVER. "For the Democratic Party to revive, major tenets of American liberalism, economic and sociocultural, will have to be discarded. The party can join Studebaker and the Glass Bottle Blowers union, it can trudge along as No. 2, or it can undergo a painful transformation." Gee, it sure sounds like Tom Edsall, who wrote those words in his Saturday New York Times column, had a whole argument about the death of the Democrats in place before the election and just dutifully trotted it out, the results notwithstanding. Declaring American liberalism dead and the 2006 election a last twitch of life before rigor mortis sets in, Edsall goes on to make all the centrist "friend of the Democrats" attacks on the left that we've been hearing for twenty years.

Only problem: it all proceeds from a factually false premise. The Democrats are not "No. 2." On November 7 they were number one by a wide margin. And the stats from recent years don't suggest a final death twitch: before the midterms the Dems in Congress had actually won more votes than their Republican counterparts, and were only in the minority because of gerrymandering and the over-representation of red states in the Senate. The also won the popular vote in the two presidential elections immediately following the disaster of 1994 that Edsall repeatedly invokes, and their uninspring candidate lost to a wartime incumbent president by a small margin in 2004.

Then there are all the self-contradictions in Edsall's piece. Edsal writes that, "Many Democratic constituencies � organized labor, minority advocacy organizations, reproductive- and sexual-rights proponents � are reliving battles of a decade or more ago, not the more subtle disputes of today." According to Edsall, these hidebound interest groups require Democrats to "plac[e] a disputed cultural or spending agenda above the broader public interest." And voters will abandon Democrats for good if they continue to do so. So what are these issues where Democratic obeissance to narrow interests threatens not only their current majority but their viablity as a major party? "Lethal struggle in the Mideast, nuclear proliferation, mounting skepticism toward free trade, and a rising non-marital birthrate -- now at 37 percent -- that concerns moderate voters."

Call me crazy, but I fail to see how the culprits Edsall fingers have any effect on, say, nuclear proliferation, one way or another. Minority rights groups demanding affirmative action for non-nuclear powers? Unions demanding card check neutrality for reactor employees in Iran? And, in fact, unions have taken the lead in expressing "mounting skepticism toward free trade" and reproductive rights organizations are at the forefront --through expanded access to contraception and the morning after pill, plus protecting the righto choose -- of attempting to combat that high non-marital birthrate.

It seems that Edsall's whole argument is an unfair attack on the left, proceeding from a false premise. I think Chicken Little has spent so long decrying the falling sky that he hasn't bothered to look up -- or at the November 8 headlines -- to notice that it isn't going anywhere.

--Ben Adler

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