On Native Ground
JOE-MENTUM, WE HARDLY KNEW YE
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- I'm writing this early Wednesday morning, absolutely vibrating with joy at seeing an election outcome that I don't have to cringe over.
Sen. Joe Lieberman's political career is over, and that is something to rejoice.
President George W. Bush's favorite Democrat bit the dust on Tuesday. The Democratic Leadership Council no longer has a say in the party, and they can now peddle their tepid, Republican-lite politics somewhere else.
The grassroots, both real and in the blogosphere, prevailed in Connecticut. Ned Lamont, a man who 30 years ago would have run as a moderate Republican (except that the breed is extinct in today's GOP) won the Democratic Party's nomination for U.S. Senate because the party faithful wanted someone who listened to their concerns about Iraq and the direction this nation is headed in.
That's why Tuesday's primary victory by Lamont has me elated. After weeks of listening to the neocons and DLC apparatchiks bemoan the prospect of the "crazies" and "blogofascists" taking over the Democratic Party, the voters of Connecticut showed the rest of the country that if you want to be called a Democrat and run for Senate under the party's banner, you ought to at least act like one.
Lieberman has rightly been called a "Fox News Democrat." He is considerably more conservative than his party. He still believes in the Iraq war and the Bush Administration's conduct of it. He supported privatizing Social Security. He supported Congress interceding in the Terri Schiavo case. He supported putting Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court. He supported tightening the bankruptcy laws to benefit the credit companies.
Lamont, a Greenwich businessman and a descendant of the Morgan banking family, is not a exactly a fire-breathing radical. However, he is clear about one thing - the war in Iraq is a mistake. He entered the race only after more prominent anti-war Democrats stepped aside. He is a lifelong political junkie with money, ambition and the good sense to notice that 73 percent of Connecticut voters (according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll) disapprove of Bush's handling of the war.
But Lamont is not just an anti-war candidate. His ideas are what used to be the norm of both parties - a belief in diplomacy rather than unilateral action, engagement with the world instead of isolationism and finding real solutions to our problems at home instead of playing cynical political games.
In other words, Lamont reflects the views of his constituents better than Lieberman. But after being in Washington for nearly 18 years, Lieberman developed the entitlement mentality of incumbent politicians. He only appears interested in maintaining his own power base. That's why he says he now wants to run for the Senate as an independent.
Lieberman's conservative supporters - such as DLC chairman Marshall Wittman - saw Tuesday's primary as, in Wittman's words, "a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party."
He was right. It was a fight for the party's soul, and it all came down to Iraq and this question: Are the Democrats going to obey the conventional wisdom of the Washington insiders and take the safest, most tepid stand? Or are they going to recognize that most Americans are thoroughly disgusted with the Bush administration and the way it deceived them on virtually every aspect of the Iraq campaign.
Connecticut's Democrats rejected Lieberman because he failed to see that Iraq is not just another campaign issue. He still hasn't realized that the catastrophic consequences of the U.S. invasion and occupation are plainly visible to all but the most rabid Bush supporters. Lieberman didn't realize how out of step he is with his constituents, the rank and file of his party and a majority of Americans.
That's why Ned Lamont won on Tuesday. That's why I'm happy today. That's why I have hope that the Democrats can retake Congress in November.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more
than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.