One of the hazards of waiting to let my thoughts settle on a topic before writing one of my traditional essayistic posts is that by the time I get around to blogging, most of what I already have to say (on that topic) has already been said. This is particularly true about the results in yesterday’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary in the Nutmeg State.
Noting that the “race finished much closer than anyone expected,” Captain Ed called Ned Lamont’s victory yesterday a “nightmare scenario” for the Democrats. At RealClearPolitics, John McIntyre called Democrats’ rejection of their 2000 Vice-Presidential nominee “a bad harbinger for future Democratic Party prospects nationally in 2008 and beyond.“
Nationally, the images from last nightmare a disaster for the Democratic Party. Perched behind Lamont during his victory speech were the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, grinning ear to ear, serenaded by the chant of “Bring Them Home, Bring Them Home.” For a party that has a profound public relations and substantive problem on national security, these are not exactly the images you want broadcast to the nation.
At a time when Republicans should be back on their heels because of chaos abroad and President Bush’s unpopularity, the Democrats’ rejection of a sensible, moralistic centrist has handed the GOP a weapon that could have vast ramifications for both the midterm elections of ’06 and the big dance of ’08.
(H/t: RealClearPolitics which has a great roundup of commentary on the Senate race.)
After reading much about the race, the thing that struck me the most was how well Lieberman did. And it wasn’t just the late polls which showed Lamont with a substantial (but diminishing) lead over the three-term incumbent. It was the evidence of the incompetence of Lieberman’s campaign.
Lieberman seems to have been caught flat-rooted by Lamont’s challenge. He had not had a tough race since 1988 when he ousted incumbent Lowell Weicker. (He won two-thirds of the vote in the very Republican year of 1994.) Indeed, his initial campaign commercials harkened back to the 1988 campaign as he attempted to tie his most recent opponent to his pompous rival that year.
At National Journal’s Hotline blog, Kevin Rennie noted that the campaign decided to “late last week to scale back its GOTV [Get Out the Vote] effort.” As I learned from helping Arlington [Virginia] score a rare victory in a 1999 special election, Get Out the Vote is crucial in tight races. The GOP learned a similar lesson in 2000.
Despite a well-financed campaign and a well-energized base against an incumbent with a poor campaign, Lamont only won by a narrow margin in the Democratic primary in a blue state. That suggests that the far left is not nearly as strong as its supporters in the blogosphere claim.
While not blaming his campaign staff for his loss, Lieberman “fired his campaign manager and spokesman, and asked for the resignations of his campaign staff.” This smart Democrat seems to have learned from his mistakes and plans to make a vigorous effort to hold his seat this fall.
In defeat, Joe Lieberman has shown the stuff that has caused me to admire him despite our partisan differences. He has thus shown himself to be in the league of such other liberal Democrats as Hubert Humphrey, Robert Kennedy and even my state’s Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein whom I may end up voting for this fall. It’s not their politics which has caused these Democrats to earn my respect, but the way they present their liberalism, not as a force of opposition to Republicans but as the best means to promote the well-being of the nation.
Thus, I was heartened to read that Lieberman said, “While I consider myself a devoted Democrat, I am even more devoted to my state and my country.” No matter our partisan affiliation we should be more devoted to our country than to our party.
Joe Lieberman is a good man who, despite supporting the president on the war, has a very liberal voting record, earning high ratings from such liberal groups as Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) while getting low scores from such conservative outfits as the National Taxpayers’ Union (NTU) and the American Conservative Union (ACU).
I expect him to win reelection this fall, but not without a fight. While he will lose some of the Democratic votes he won yesterday to Lamont in the fall campaign, he will hold on to 75% of his total (my guess) and is poised to do well among Connecticut’s independent voters. I also expect him to win a majority, yes, I said, majority of Republican votes in the Nutmeg State. Alan Schlesinger, the Republican nominee is not only polling in the single digits, but has ethical problems as well. The state’s Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell has asked him “to drop out” of the race.
Given that this popular incumbent is expected to cruise to reelection, she could further Democratic divisions by endorsing Lieberman. Not only would that help Lieberman, but it would also help the three embattled Connecticut Republican Congressman, Chris Shays, Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson whose campaigns are certainly buoyed by Lieberman’s defeat in the Democratic primary.
While this is a sad day for the nation as it shows the increasing success of angry extremists (whose only agenda appears to be hatred of George W. Bush and the GOP) at taking control of one of our major political parties, in Joe Lieberman’s continued campaign, there are signs of hope. Let us hope that a liberal Democrat who has parted from his party on the war succeeds this fall in a three-way race.
Like Dianne Feinstein and many of the great liberal statesman of the last half of the twentieth century, Joe Lieberman does not see politics as a means of attacking his ideological and partisan adversaries, but as a means to promote policies in the national interest. Unlike the leaders of his party who have used the legislative process to obstruct legislation put forward by the majority, Lieberman sees that process as a means to work out compromises with his colleagues, on both sides of the political aisle.
We could use a few more Joe Liebermans in the United States Senate. And we Republicans could use a few more conservatives with Lieberman’s attitude on our side of the political aisle.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com