The New York Times had an excellent article yesterday about Democrats failing to take advantage of Republican weakness, with candid quotes by many top DC Democrats.

Asked to describe the health of the Democratic Party, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said: "A lot worse than it should be. This has not been a very good two months."

"We seem to be losing our voice when it comes to the basic things people worry about," Mr. Dodd said.

Democrats said they had not yet figured out how to counter the White House's long assault on their national security credentials. And they said their opportunities to break through to voters with a coherent message on domestic and foreign policy — should they settle on one — were restricted by the lack of an established, nationally known leader to carry their message this fall.

Democrats don't have a coherent message and if they had one they wouldn't know what to do with it.

"I think that two-thirds of the American people think the country is going in the wrong direction," " said Senator Barack Obama, the first-term Illinois Democrat who is widely viewed as one of the party's promising stars. "They're not sure yet whether Democrats can move it in the right direction."

Mr. Obama said the Democratic Party had not seized the moment, adding: "We have been in a reactive posture for too long. I think we have been very good at saying no, but not good enough at saying yes." ...

"We're selling our party short; you've got to stand for a lot more than just blasting the other side," said Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee. "The country is wide open to hear some alternatives, but I don't think it's wide open to all these criticisms. I am sitting here and getting all my e-mail about the things we are supposed to say about the president's speech, but it's extremely light on ideas. It's like, 'We're for jobs and we're for America.' " ...

In a speech last week in Washington and in an interview, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, who is considering a run for president in 2008, sharply criticized fellow Democrats who were arguing that the party should focus only on domestic issues and turn away from national security, since that has been the strong suit for this White House since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

"I think the Republicans are ripe for the taking on this issue," Mr. Bayh said in the interview, "but not until we rehabilitate our own image. I think there's a certain element of denial about how we are viewed, perhaps incorrectly but viewed nonetheless, by many Americans as being deficient on national security."

In his speech, to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Bayh said: "As Democrats, we have a patriotic duty and political imperative to lay out our ideas for protecting America. Frankly, our fellow citizens have doubts about us. We have work to do."

Those folks all sound very frustrated by the party leadership, and it's no wonder. Following the talking-points from on-high has put them in a no-win situation when it comes to the national security, Social Security, and a host of other pressing issues. The biggest problem seems to be that the Democrats' perception of their "base" is inaccurate. The Daily Kossacks and the lunatics on DemocraticUnderground are loud and crazy and willing to volunteer and donate, but there aren't that many of them... not enough to vote anyone into office (thank God). Unless the Democratic Party can purge these wackos from their power structure they're doomed to failure. And no one-party state can thrive for long.

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