Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thoughts on the Liberman-Lamont Smackdown

Here are a few thoughts Connecticut Democrat Joe Liberman's loss against anti-war candidate Ned Lamont:

Note to Centrist Democrats: Welcome to my World. For the past 30 years or so, we've seen Centrist Republicans being driven to the point. The far right has targeted more moderate politicians, like Michigan's Joe Schwarz, claiming they are not true Republicans. I think we are in the infancy of a new movement to remove those Democrats who are not considered Democratic enough. Just as Centrist Republicans are tagged as "RINOS" (Republicans in Name Only) expect Centrist Dems to be considered "DINOS" (Democrats in Name Only). The Deaniac/Daily Kos/Firedoglake crowd has learned a trick or two from the far right: firing up the "base" means requiring purity of thought and purpose. The far left has seen the effectiveness of the Karl Rove tactic and has decided to copy the tactic. Because of Liberman's close association with Bush and his contrarian nature, he was considered a heretic not an indepentdent thinker. It's going to get tough over the coming months and years for moderate Democrats and I expect to see a lot of either marginalized Dems or former Dems in the near future.

This leads to my second observation:

Liberman was but the first to fall. There are commentators like EJ Dionne who say this is not the beginning of a purge of moderates with in the Democratic Party since others politicians who initially supported the Iraq War are not being targeted this year.


The reason the netroots went after Liberman is because he was low hanging fruit. He was the most visible target and the one that was easiest to pick off. Remember when, Hillary Clinton was booed earlier this year for her stance on Iraq? Centrist Democrats will have to be careful how they deal with issues like the war. Look for the netroots to demand that Democrats in Washington to support an immediate withdrawl or face their wrath. It may not happen this year, but watch 2008. Presidential and legislative candidates might not get the support of the party rank and file if they equivocate on this issue. My guess is that you will see centrists either change their tone to please the netroots or deal with the consequences.

Now, on yo Liberman:

Liberman should give it up. I can understand that he wants to run as an independent and part of me agrees with that. But I think Liberman should just fall on his sword for now and lay low for a while. Maybe join a think tank or some place like the Democratic Leadership Council where he could opine on policy. Maybe even consider an independent presidential candidacy in 2008 (Unity '08, anyone?).

The reason is that however noble his intentions might be, his independent run will burn bridges with the Democrats. Notice that a lot of Republicans are supporting Liberman. Some are good guys, like Chris Shays, but there are also some not so good guys. This will only confirm the suspicions of many that Liberman is really a Republican or at least a tool of the Bush-Rove team. I think right now it would make more sense to "play the good soldier" and step a side for a while and pondering his next moves instead of being tagged (however unfairly) as a quisling.

Look for nothing to get done. It's interesting that back in the days when the two major parties were less ideological than they are now, a lot of stuff got done. The GI Bill, the Interstate Highway Act, the Civil and Voting Rights Acts and the environmental laws of the late 60s and 70s, such as the Edangered Species Act were all passed during this time. Since both parties have become more ideologically rigid, there has been less work done by Congress. It's not that there aren't things that need to be done, but both parties are more interested in rallying their bases and playing "gotcha" with the other party. Take Social Security reform. Yes, the president's plan was terrible, but instead of proposing a better solution, the Democrats played obstruction. The same thing happened a decade earlier with health care reform when the Republicans played the same game. The Clubs for Growth and MoveOn.orgs of the world don't really care about serving the public. What they want to do is attack the other side and expel those who don't hue to their ideology.

Like some others, Liberman wasn't my favorite politician. I disagreed more than I agreed with him. I'm saddened by his loss not because I like him, but because we our political parties are becoming more conformist with less room from tolerance. What we see are people who place party before country and who are more interested in politics than in statecraft.

There are those who say that we need clarity to show what the parties stand for, to give people a choice. For those of us in the middle, it gives us the choice to support neither.

I'm wary about the prospects of a third centrist party, but as both parties harden, that prospect might become more of a reality.


The Truffle said...

Dennis, Lieberman didn't lose because he's a centrist. The Kos/Deaniac crowd respects centrists like Jim Webb, Mark Warner, and John Murtha. Centrism is not the problem. In fact, Democrats value centrists more than today's GOP does. The GOP has marginalized its moderates, even forming "RINO Hunter's Clubs."

No, what doomed Lieberman was that he was cozy with Bushco. He backed a war that most of America now agrees is a disaster. He behaved as if he were ashamed of his own party. Who needs a Fox News Democrat? Who needs a Democrat who has no qualms about allying himself with a dangerous administration and failed policies?

Check out Glenn Greenwald's great blog. He's written extensively on Lieberman and the reasons for his fall.

Heiuan said...

Hi, Dennis. It's been a while since I last posted on your blog. I'm a very centrist Democrat, and whoever calls me a Dino will eat teeth. :D

I have to disagree with you on your reasoning regarding the Lieberman/Lamont primary.

Joe Leiberman didn't lose because the liberal netroots ganged up on him, Lieberman lost because "his" constituents no longer trusted him to represent them.

CT isn't a hotbed of radical liberalism. Radical pragmatism, more likely, if that isn't an oxymoron. CT voters tend to be more centrist than flaming wingers of either extreme, as surprising as that may seem right now. Ned Lamont is a moderate. He's not a flaming radical. And the Democratic voters decided to let Ned have a chance at becoming the next Senator from Conneticut.

The end result of the primary was not a reflection on liberalism in Connecticut, nor the death knell to centrism. It was a demonstration of public opinion on Joe Lieberman's effectiveness as a Senator. He simply lost his vote of confidence, as the Parliamentarians say.

lloydletta said...

On Lieberman, my problem with his stance is that he wants to have it both ways. It should not be legal for a candidate to have a do over. If he wanted to run as an independent, he should have done that from the get go - rather than running as a democrat, losing in the primary, then running as an independent.