WASHINGTON, D.C. -- History takes time. To understand the historic decline of the Democratic Party, I have found it useful to reach back to a book I wrote in 1984, "The Liberal Crack-Up." It is a diagnosis of what was then the core philosophy of the Democratic Party, liberalism, and a prognosis of its future. Doctor Tyrrell was not optimistic, but history takes time.
Today, the Democratic Party has lost both houses of Congress, the presidency and many state offices it had controlled for at least two generations. It is about to be outpaced throughout the federal judiciary. The liberal crack-up began with the defeat of that liberal fantastico, Jimmy Carter. It picked up steam during the 1990s, when the Democrats lost the House and the Senate and many state offices -- and the media's legend endures that President Bill Clinton is a political genius.
His genius is in self-promotion. He is a cunning huckster. But the liberal crack-up did not reach the point of no return until Nov. 2, 2004. Then on that glad and glorious morn, that reductio ad absurdum of a liberal presidential candidate, Jean-Francois Kerry, the Democratic elites and all the liberals in the media beheld Victory. It was to be a return to their vicarious lives as Kennedys! Roosevelts! Progressives!
Alas, by Nov. 3, their delusions became very difficult to maintain. Sure there are many who still think they won. Doubtless Jean-Francois, his balmy wife and many in his entourage still feel as morally and intellectually superior as they did in the expectant hours of Nov. 2. Yet clear-headed students of politics today recognize that the Democratic Party has suffered a catastrophic defeat. Some, such as Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago and Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, are politely suggesting that their party is in need of a philosophy transplant, something less narcissistic, less out-of-this world, than the troubled philosophy that since the 1960s has been at its core, namely, liberalism.