07 August 2006

on lamont vs. lieberman

Since the Connecticut Democratic primary is only two days away, I thought I'd put in my two sense on the race between Senator Joe Lieberman and his challenger in the primary, Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont. The netroots left of course has come out strongly in support of Lamont, less for his actual merits and more for the simple fact that he is not Lieberman, and not in support of our occupation of Iraq. While many heralded the demise of the lefty blogosphere in the wake of Dean's 2004 loss in Iowa, it seems that the rumors of such a death have been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, in a remarkable turn of events over the past month or so, Lamont's campaign, supported vigorously by bloggers and online fundraisers galore, has surged beyond all expectations, with the latest polls showing the challenger with a strong lead. My fascination (and the national media's, I presume) with this particular race stems not so much from an interest in Connecticut state politics, or even for the race's ultimate effect on the composition of the next Senate. Rather, I think (and hope) that this race will have huge consequences for the overall Democratic efforts leading up to November to take back control of the House and Senate. The unexpected rise of an unknown primary challenger and the apparent collapse of one of the Democratic Party's most established and long-serving members of Congress, while having nothing to do with the typical architectural banter that typically graces these pages, has everything to do with the notion of a "progressive reaction." It's ironic that the netroots advocacy of Lamont has coopted the time-tested Republican tactic of emphasizing a single issue -- in this case, the war in Iraq -- and making the entire election a referendum on that particular cause. It's a progressive, anti-war movement operating in a reactionary manner. Will it work for Lamont and his agitated supporters? Who knows. And even if it does, will such a strategy work in the general Congressional elections on November 7? A fired-up Democractic left means one thing during primary season, but it's a whole different ballgame once you factor in the red half of America, especially in states like Missouri, Arizona, Montana, and Virgina, all states with crucial races this fall. Again -- who knows.

All bets are off for Tuesday's race: I certainly would not underestimate Joe Lieberman's organization, election day GOTV efforts, and his capacity to come back from behind. Not to mention his potential candidacy as an Independent, which would be difficult for Lamont to overcome in November. But if I were a resident of the great state of Connecticut, would I take a risk, reject a more or less decent Senator who has spent his whole political career advocating causes with which I identify, and rashly embrace some no-name millionaire who has offered nothing coherent save for a staunch opposition to our military presence in Iraq? You bet I would. Enough is enough: it's time for the Democratic Party to realize that it not only has the potential to regain the majority, but that it already represents the majority. Most Americans want to fix the mess in Iraq; all they need is someone to offer them a way out and a valid alternative to the horrid status quo that reigns in Washington. It's time.

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