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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rejection of Joe Lieberman Goes Beyond Iraq

I'm glad to see pundits beginning to realize that the Connecticut Senate Primary isn't just about Iraq. Yesterday, it was Harold Meyerson:

No great mystery enshrouds the challenge to Lieberman, nor is the campaign of his challenger, Ned Lamont, a jihad of crazed nit-pickers. Lieberman has simply and rightly been caught up in the fundamental dynamics of Politics 2006, in which Democrats are doing their damnedest to unseat all the president's enablers in this year's elections. As well, Lieberman's broader politics are at odds with those of his fellow Northeastern Democrats. He is not being opposed because he doesn't reflect the views of his Democratic constituents 100 percent of the time. He is being opposed because he leads causes many of them find repugnant. [...]

The issue here isn't that Lieberman is not 100 percent. It's that his positions -- not just on foreign policy but on trade, Social Security and other key issues -- are often out of sync with those of Democrats in his part of the country. To expect his region's voters to dump the area's moderate Republicans but back Lieberman is to expect that they will adopt a double standard in this year's elections.

Lieberman's ultimate problem isn't fanatical bloggers, any more than Lyndon Johnson's was crazy, antiwar Democrats. His problem is that Bush, and the war that both he and Bush have championed, is speeding the ongoing realignment of the Northeast. His problem, dear colleagues, is Connecticut.

Today it is Chuck Todd:

First and foremost, Lieberman's problems aren't all about Iraq.

His unwavering support for President Bush on Iraq was simply the tipping point. If this was just about Iraq, then many of the rank-and-file Democratic activists who are supporting Lamont would be biting their tongues on Iraq and sticking with Lieberman. The "Iraq" in this equation has been oversimplified.

Lieberman has been living on the edge with the party's base for some time, beginning with his "sermon on the mount" critique of former President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky mess. During the 2000 campaign, there were two moments many Democrats won't ever forget involving Lieberman: (1) his overly nice-guy approach toward Dick Cheney in the vice presidential debate; and (2) when he went against Al Gore's legal team in regards to the rules involving military ballots.

Individually, these moments were painted positively by the press, and they added to Lieberman's reputation as a different kind of politician.

But, taken in total, these deviations from the party paint a picture of Lieberman as a "me-first" politician to the extreme. (I say "extreme" because all politicians are "me-first" to a point.) In short, many Democrats believe Lieberman has built his national reputation by contrasting himself in a positive light against rank-and-file party members.
This triangulation isn't just a Lieberman problem, it is a DLC problem. Failing to renew Lieberman's six year contract isn't the solution, but it is the beginning of rooting out the DLC problem that has destroyed the Democratic Party.

The treatment Lieberman is receiving this year will be refined for next year's battle to select the 2008 nominee. On that front, the DLC is in far worse shape than most pundits would have probably predicted. Senator Hillary Clinton appears more vulnerable every day, Tom Vilsack doesn't even have traction in his home state, Evan Bayh is a joke so boring you fall asleep before the punchline, and Mark Warner's attempt to buy the netroots backfired and resulted in the first major scandal of the 2008 campaign.

Chuck Todd wonders, "The question now is just how much collateral damage this campaign is going to cause the party." The key is that the Connecticut Primary is the springboard to saving our party another cycle of collateral damage. Democrats need to stop compromising to try and win elections and start focusing on winning each and every day. Not only will we win more elections this way, but we won't have collateral damage phyrric victories like Bob Casey, Jr.

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