Well, they can't blame Ralph Nader this time.

On Tuesday the Democratic Party miserably failed its truest believers for the third consecutive election. It's the second consecutive Presidential election where the party had a gift-wrapped opportunity to defeat an inferior Republican candidate ... and couldn't do it.
Let's put the blame where it belongs. There's plenty to choose among: weathervane party Chairman Terry McAuliffe. The legions of soulless and grossly incompetent Democratic pollsters. The free-spending, formulaic and uninspired communications of wealthy media consultant (and perennial loser) Bob Shrum & Co.

The runup to last week's election reminded me of nothing so much as Paul Wellstone's 1990 upset victory in Minnesota. Not since then had I experienced so many citizens so absolutely determined to do whatever they could to effect change.
Democrats, ask yourselves this:

Where would the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party have been without the energizing influence of Howard Dean, his campaign manager and Internet guru Joe Trippi, and their respective organizations, Democracy for America and Change for America?
Where would the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party have been without the imaginative and truly exceptional efforts of Wes Boyd, Eli Pariser and MoveOn.org?

Where would they have been without Michael Moore and George Soros and Bruce Springsteen and Al Franken and Michael Stipe?
Where would they have been without Rock the Vote, Vote or Die, Declare Yourself, and provocateurs like Chuck D., Russell Simmons and, yes, even P. Diddy?

Where would they have been without Air America Radio and the bloggers and grassroots groups like Operation Truth, Billionaires for Bush and PunkVoter?

And where would they have been without the nearly $130 million overall spending advantage the Democratic Party and Democratic-leaning groups had over their Republican counterparts?

These groups, and many others -- not to mention countless individual citizens -- did everything within their power to defeat George W. Bush. They contributed their time, their money, their energy and their talents. And yet, the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party simply didn't get the job done.

Look at the numbers: George W. Bush won a majority of the popular vote on Tuesday by increasing his vote total in the 2000 election by some 8 million. That's a tidy 17 percent increase in "market share," if you will. John Kerry and the Democrats got barely 1.5 million more votes than the combined Al Gore and Ralph Nader (nearly all of whose 2000 supporters voted for Kerry this year) vote total from 2000. After four years of planning and unlimited funding, that's a puny "market share" increase of not even 3 percent.

Karl Rove, Matthew Dowd and Ralph Reed got their additional 4 to 5 million targeted voters out. Why didn't the Democrats and their much-ballyhooed, exceptionally well-funded America Coming Together organization at least match that?

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth made themselves effective with a scrawny initial $550,000 media buy. Why couldn't the extremely well-capitalized Media Fund make a dime's worth of difference with nearly $50 million worth of their ads?

I'm nowhere near rich enough to pretend to know how rich people think. Maybe dropping $26 million on an election is no more distressing to George Soros than losing a $20 bill.

But the Democratic Party has been getting away with this for far too long. There is a lack of accountability -- to funders, to volunteers and, most of all, to their voters -- that is breathtakingly irresponsible.

The bottom line for this election is simple: Individual citizens and independent groups, taking the burden upon themselves, did a superlative job of cultivating national dissatisfaction with the president and his policies. But the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party could not provide an acceptable enough alternative. They could not close the deal with America's swing voters.

There are no more excuses for this Democratic Party. It must change -- and change radically -- or it should die.

Bill Hillsman is the author of " Run the Other Way: Fixing the Two-Party System, One Campaign at a Time ." He is the president and chief creative officer of North Woods Advertising in Minneapolis.


© 2004 Bill Hillsman