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August 9, 2006
A Democratic 'Disaster'? Not Quite

Joe Lieberman filed his paperwork for an independent run at re-election after losing the primary last night, as expected. Predictably, his colleagues in the Democratic Party have endorsed the winner, Ned Lamont, as they have little choice but to support the party process. Many pundits have argued that this augurs a 1972-style collapse for the Democrats -- but that may overstate the situation more than just a little:

Top Democrats on Capitol Hill abandoned Sen. Joe Lieberman one by one Wednesday and threw their support to Ned Lamont, the anti-war challenger who defeated him in the primary. But Lieberman said his conscience demands that he run as an independent in November.

"I think it would be irresponsible and inconsistent with my principles if I were to just walk off the field," Lieberman said in an interview with The Associated Press a day after his loss to the political newcomer in a race that was considered an early referendum on the Iraq war.

Top Senate Democrats, including John Kerry and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Harry Reid of Nevada, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Chuck Schumer of New York, said they supported Lamont as the duly elected choice of Connecticut's Democratic voters.

Reid and Schumer — the party's Senate leader, and the head of the Democratic Senate campaign committee — said: "The perception was that (Lieberman) was too close to George Bush and this was, in many respects, a referendum on the president more than anything else. The results bode well for Democratic victories in November and our efforts to take the country in a new direction."

The Democrats have tried to sell this Bush-referendum nonsense all day, and it just doesn't fly. Connecticut spanked Bush twice in presidential elections, by ten points in 2004. No one figures that Bush would win any popularity contests there in the best of circumstances. The state remains as reliably liberal as ever, ensconced in the most liberal regions of the nation, the Northeast. The Bushes may summer in Kennebunkport, but they don't win elections within sight of Connecticut under any circumstances. Even the Republicans who win seats in Congress get regularly criticized by GOP stalwarts as RINOs.

No, the election served as a referendum among strong liberals on the virtues of bipartisanship and the war on terror, and both lost. Jacob Weisberg makes this point in Slate, arguing that the Democrats have turned the clock back to 1972 and have positioned themselves for another generation out of power:

Political analysts tend to overinterpret the results of isolated elections. But you can hardly read too much into Ned Lamont's defeat of Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Aug. 8 primary. This is a signal event that will have a huge and lasting negative impact on the Democratic Party. ...

The problem for the Democrats is that the anti-Lieberman insurgents go far beyond simply opposing Bush's faulty rationale for the war, his dishonest argumentation for it, and his incompetent execution of it. Many of them appear not to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously. They see Iraq purely as a symptom of a cynical and politicized right-wing response to Sept. 11, as opposed to a tragic misstep in a bigger conflict. Substantively, this view indicates a fundamental misapprehension of the problem of terrorism. Politically, it points the way to perpetual Democratic defeat.

We know this because we have been here before. The Lamont-Lieberman battle was filled with echoes and parallels from the Vietnam era. Democratic reformers and anti-establishment insurgents weren't wrong about that conflict, either. Vietnam was a terrible mistake for the United States. But like Iraq, Vietnam was a badly chosen battlefield in a larger conflict with totalitarianism that America had no choice but to pursue. In turning viciously on stalwarts of the Cold War era like Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, and Scoop Jackson, anti-war insurgents called into question the Democratic Party's underlying commitment to challenging Communist expansion. The party's Vietnam-era drift away from issues of security and defense—and its association with a radical left hostile to the military and neutral in the fight between liberalism and communism—helped push a lot of Americans who didn't much like the Vietnam War into the arms of Richard Nixon.

Weisberg has certainly identified the problem and its potential destructiveness if it continues. The Left wants people to believe that they have served notice on Democrats that they will brook no dissent from pacifism and will tolerate no compromise on their platform, regardless of bipartisanship. The combination would create a toxic brew for anyone to drink -- but will that really resonate nationwide?

I rather doubt it. I think the Left has done the party a disservice and has viciously attacked a man who supported most of their goals for a lot longer than many of them have been eligible to vote. That's stupid and shortsighted. Moreoever, the vitriolic manner of their campaign and the hate-dripped arguments that they have used against Lieberman have made moderates in and out of both parties mistrust their motives.

Alll of that being said, this has played out in one of the most liberal areas of the country. No one has targeted Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and for good reason: they'd lose the seat to the Republicans. Lieberman represented an easy target, one with no risk and plenty of reward -- or so they thought, until Lieberman went independent. The Republican challenger for this seat didn't stand much of a chance in any case, and changing stories on the gambling collection efforts from casinos he frequented shot even those modest hopes down in flames.

The spectacle in Connecticut was ugly and mean-spirited, and in the end the progressives tried to oust a poltician with a solidly liberal voting record for a rich novice who bought himself an election, something that not even Karl Rove could have cooked up. However, they're not trying it in Florida, Nebraska, or West Virginia. The Left isn't even trying it in New York. When they try to take this show on the road, then we can talk about 1972. Until then, Democrats should be embarrassed enough by this debacle.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 9, 2006 6:11 PM

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» Let the purges begin from Posse Incitatus
Sen. Joe Lieberman's defeat in his primary has caused a veritable explosion of commentary. Much of it is overwrought, however the Posse cannot agree with the relaxed view taken by Captain Ed. We believe this is in fact a significant [Read More]

Tracked on August 9, 2006 7:24 PM

» What an Opportunity from Lump on a Blog
As the Move-On and Kos kids are celebrating the loss of Joe Lieberman to Ned Lamont in the Connecticut primary, I am doing some celebrating of my on. On the national stage, I believe the narrow Lamont victory, if followed up by a Lieberman independent... [Read More]

Tracked on August 9, 2006 10:48 PM

» Giornalismi from The Right Nation
Glauco Maggi, su Libero*, analizza da destra la sconfitta di Joe Lieberman alle primarie democratiche del Connecticut, con profondit e ricchezza di fonti. Alessandra Farkas, sul Corrierino, scopiazza senza [Read More]

Tracked on August 10, 2006 7:26 AM

» He Was Expendable from Ed Driscoll.com
Teddy Kennedy on Joe Lieberman at the Democrats' 2000 convention:Earlier Tuesday night, Sen. Edward Kennedy strode to the podium to make comparisons between his brother, President Kennedy, who received the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles in 1960, ... [Read More]

Tracked on August 10, 2006 9:20 PM

» He Was Expendable from Ed Driscoll.com
Teddy Kennedy on Joe Lieberman at the Democrats' 2000 convention:Earlier Tuesday night, Sen. Edward Kennedy strode to the podium to make comparisons between his brother, President Kennedy, who received the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles in 1960, ... [Read More]

Tracked on August 10, 2006 9:43 PM

» He Was Expendable from Ed Driscoll.com
Teddy Kennedy on Joe Lieberman at the Democrats' 2000 convention:Earlier Tuesday night, Sen. Edward Kennedy strode to the podium to make comparisons between his brother, President Kennedy, who received the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles in 1960, ... [Read More]

Tracked on August 10, 2006 11:10 PM

» Friday Wingnut Roundup from AGITPROP: Version 3.0, Featuring Blogenfreude
Wonder what the residents of Wingnutistan have to say about Holy Joe's primary defeat? After all, they're his biggest fans: Ann Althouse - do you think Joe will say sharp things about Democrats, or maybe fall into the arms of [Read More]

Tracked on August 11, 2006 12:17 PM

» Friday Wingnut Roundup from AGITPROP: Version 3.0, Featuring Blogenfreude
Wonder what the residents of Wingnutistan have to say about Holy Joe's primary defeat? After all, they're his biggest fans: >Ann Althouse - do you think Joe will say sharp things about Democrats or maybe fall into the arms of [Read More]

Tracked on August 11, 2006 12:25 PM

» Friday Wingnut Roundup from AGITPROP: Version 3.0, Featuring Blogenfreude
Wonder what the residents of Wingnutistan have to say about Holy Joe's primary defeat? After all, they're his biggest fans: Ann Althouse - do you think Joe will say sharp things about Democrats or maybe fall into the arms of [Read More]

Tracked on August 11, 2006 12:29 PM

» Friday Wingnut Roundup from AGITPROP: Version 3.0, Featuring Blogenfreude
Wonder what the residents of Wingnutistan have to say about Holy Joe's primary defeat? After all, they're his biggest fans: Ann Althouse - do you think Joe will say sharp things about Democrats or maybe fall into the arms of [Read More]

Tracked on August 11, 2006 12:37 PM

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