The People Can Do Better Than Two Parties in a Pod : Democrats have doomed themselves by imitating Republicans while the real needs of our nation go unanswered. Let's imagine something new.

The ailing, perhaps moribund condition of the Democratic Party was confirmed by the recent meeting of the self-designated Democratic Leadership Council. The pronouncements of prominent party leaders demonstrated that the Democrats are no longer a party with a purpose. They lack a cause, an ideology and a sense of the needs of the country. Many, probably a majority, of the "leaders" seem to believe that the way to win elections is to become more like the Republican Party, which is busily dismantling the national economy, swindling taxpayers and undermining the values on which our democracy was founded.

It is the road to defeat. If the country is offered a choice between two Republicans it will choose a real one, not a conservative who labels himself a Democrat.

Almost all of the candidates of both parties espouse the same policies--they are against "too much government spending," against crime, racial quotas, deficits and lots more--but they offer no realistic alternative to our present decline and decay. No wonder most people don't bother to vote. Better to stay home and play with the kids than go to a voting booth and conspire in the pretense.

Both parties serve mostly the same interests--big business, banks and oil companies; they diverge little in their conduct of public policy. This is understood by a few politicians, some expert analysts and a very large number of citizens whose common sense tells them that government is in gridlock.

Our present necessities are the creation of the modern age--progeny of those twin monsters, technology and population growth. They do not fit into the now-obsolete categories (derived from the New Deal) of "right" and "left," "liberal" and "conservative." I cannot in this space discuss these fully. But here is a sampling.

The first necessity is the modernization of our failing economy--not by tinkering with interest rates but through measures to increase productivity, including the government-stimulated acceleration of civilian technology. The entire corporate structure (which is established by law, not divine ordinance) must be revised to compel managers to plan for long-term growth and competition rather than short-term profits. Workers should be involved in management, since they have a greater stake in the future of companies than do executive officers. Nor can we escape a drastic revision of the banking structure to ensure the capital necessary for modernizing old businesses and starting new ones.

We must also eliminate rapidly hardening class walls. We have not two classes but many: the wealthy 20%, the white-collar middle class, the workers in manufacturing and other industry, the unemployed poor. All of these except the rich are experiencing a diminishing standard of living and a lessening of opportunity for themselves and their children.

This transformation of America into a class society not only conflicts with the essence of democracy but brings about a permanent stagnation/decline in an economy that is based on the purchasing power of large numbers. A severe maldistribution of income preceded the Depression of the 1930s and is contributing mightily to our present inexorable slide toward the Depression of the 1990s.

Finally, a direct attack on crime must be shaped with an awareness that poverty, hopelessness and the segregation of our poorest citizens is a direct cause of crime. In the great cities of America, class division is rapidly moving toward class war--not so much the very poor against the more affluent, but of the hopeless against the hopeless, like the refugees in Bangladesh or northern Iraq scrambling violently for the few crumbs that a stingy world has been willing to provide. In many of our inner cities, a civil war is already in progress. We can arrest and punish all we want and the problem will still grow. How do you deter the hopeless, short of turning our inner cities into occupied zones patrolled, perhaps, by the forces of Stormin' Norman, who would find the gangs of Detroit and Los Angeles far more formidable than Iraq's "elite" Republican Guard.

Division is now in the saddle. The varied classes of America are more and more detached, psychically and morally, from their fellow citizens. Who in my affluent white suburb, Concord, Mass., really cares if the blacks of downtown Boston are shooting each other? We are losing the sense of a common American identity. But that inward separation is an evasion. Like it or not, we are all on the same boat and cannot escape its fate.

There are no signs of courage in our present political structure. The President has no program, no ideas. He probably thinks--as Herbert Hoover did--that everything will work itself out; that the fundamentals are sound. Congress is paralyzed, passing deficit bills that won't affect the deficit, gun-control laws that won't control guns.

The hope--the only hope--is for a political movement outside the present party structure, with an agenda and the political cum demagogic skills to convince people that it means business. With such a movement we could take over the country; a Jeffersonian revolution from within. I'm ready. What about you?

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