By MICHAEL GOODWIN
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The Democratic Party has died after a long, painful lack of direction. Born in 1792, it was the second-oldest political party in the world, after the Tories of Great Britain. But it suffered decline for years and finally succumbed to complications brought on by elitism and anger. The cause of death was officially attributed to an obstruction lodged in its leadership.
OK, as Mark Twain might say, reports of the Democratic Party's death are premature. But come Saturday, they won't be.
That's the day Howard "The Scream" Dean is likely to win the job of national Dem boss. It's also the day the party ceases to be a viable alternative to George Bush.
How did it happen that the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Clinton became irrelevant to the majority of Americans? How could the "party of the common man," as it first called itself more than 200 years ago, become out of power and out of touch?
The easy answer is that, like all social nightmares, this one happened because good people did nothing as the virus spread. So while there is much dissent from the party faithful, most of it is in private.
In public, there is silence from those who know that Dean will take the party over the cliff and into an abyss of fringe liberalism that has no foundation in the American populace. Dean and the extremists he represents shouldn't even be allowed to call themselves Democrats. Deaniacs is what they are.
Petty personal feuds are part of the problem. Martin Frost, the moderate former congressman from Texas, had a shot at defeating Dean until Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, piped up. Pelosi is reportedly still steamed that Frost challenged her for the House post two years ago, so she helped clear the path for Dean.
Pelosi, of course, is a charter member of the Dean-Michael Moore wackadoo wing. She used her talk after Bush's State of the Union speech to call for a "timetable" for quitting Iraq, an idea that borders on the insane. You don't have to support the war to recognize that telling the terrorists when we're leaving is an invitation to disaster.
Dean's rise comes with a new lie about him -- that he's really a moderate. That bit of false labeling, based on his record as Vermont governor, conveniently overlooks his far-left campaign for president. It's that race that gave him the prominence for the national party job.
It's worth remembering how bad a candidate Dean was. The Scream came after the Iowa caucus, where Dean finished a dismal third, with only 18 percent of the vote. The first to declare himself a candidate, he was the front-runner for a year and led the pack in fund-raising, much of it raised on the Internet.
But when the first votes were counted, John Kerry and John Edwards smashed him, with Kerry getting 38 percent of the vote and Edwards 32 percent. Dean went psycho on TV that night and never recovered. A month later, he was out of the race, having not won a single primary.
He was too far left for primary voters, the cream of the liberal crop. But now the 447 internal electors think he should be the face, voice and chief operator of the whole party. That tells you something about the state chairs and other special-interest shills supporting Dean.
His victory would be a loss not only for real Democrats, but for America, too. Bush has many strengths, especially on the war on terror, but he is flirting with extreme ideology by supporting a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
A credible opposition party is crucial to keep the needle in the middle on such issues. But Democrats apparently have decided to fight extremism with more extremism.
May they rest in peace.
X Michael Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Daily News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.