The Democrats think they can smell victory in 2008. A failed war, a polarized economy and a bumbling, unelected White House autocrat---what could bode better for a change of power?

But there's a deeper question, importantly asked by radio talk host Laura Flanders in her book BLUE GRIT ( ). Are the Democrats---and the left---savvy, concerned and hip enough to recapture young and working Americans? Can they generate the excitement and commitment to win back national power in a way that can also bring meaningful change?

Or will they remain stuck in what Flanders calls "the penthouse party way of doing things?"

From her popular perch at Air America, Flanders has been demanding that the Democratic Party return to its roots. Her BLUE GRIT cuts to the class core of a party that's been smug, bloated and out of touch. "Democrats and national advocacy groups share a habit of thinking that centralizing money and then shipping out last-minute organizers works. It doesn't."

Nor does a party hierarchy whose prime priority seems to be raking in as much corporate money as it can. Bill Clinton was infamous, of course, for "triangulating" between what his mass constituents wanted and what corporate sponsors were willing to pay for. His rhetoric was calibrated to the grassroots while policy followed the money.

It took Elvis to sell that song. But in his wake has come a party establishment that's little more than a hollow shell. In Florida, where the GOP stole the 2000 election, there was an office with a "nice mural" but "nobody home." The Democrats had moved away "and never taken down the sign." Meanwhile, local party offices typically function "for only as long as there's money and volunteers, usually ten or twelve weeks leading up to an election, then shut up tight."

Traditional blue collar neighborhoods have been hit hardest by what Flanders calls "a perfect storm of bad election law and bad economics." Poor people still vote for Democrats, but they tend to vote in far fewer numbers than wealthy Republicans.

And when push comes to shove, the Dems haven't been there to defend those votes. Most importantly, they failed in 2004 to protect the right of black and working class voters to cast their ballots and get them reliably counted.

Flanders visits Ohio, where John Kerry and the Democrats have stiffed the very people whose votes legitimately gave them the White House, had they been willing to fight for it. When Kerry conceded with a quarter-million votes still uncounted (and Bush with an alleged margin of victory just half that) it became the task of grassroots activists to investigate and publicize the theft of the election. That they are forced to do it in the face of fierce attacks from the Democrats themselves remains one of the most shocking examples of death-by-arrogance in US history.

Will it happen again in 2008? Flanders finds hope in Howard Dean, whose infamous "scream" she correctly interprets as a long-overdue sign of life. He "has his sleeves rolled up, his fist in the air, his face flushed and his mouth open," she writes. "It's not a bad image for the man who wants to take the Democratic Party back into the fight."

But she knows that the party's "advisors" and "consultants" and "Cintonistas" are wedded to the old ways of corporate bloat, with their priorities linked to the color of money. To take back America, blue collar America will first have to take back the Democratic Party. It's starting to happen, she says, and the 2008 outcome depends on us finishing the job.

Flanders warns that it will be a tough, gritty struggle to turn the nation back to Democratic blue. But the good news is that the constituencies are there, the excitement is there, the power is there. Retake the Democratic Party, she says, and we can retake America.

Harvey Wasserman is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, A.D. 2030 ( and co-author, with Bob Fitrakis, of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008 (, both of which have been discussed on the Laura Flanders Show.