Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bottom Of The Ninth In Connecticut

I've spent probably ten years or so now closely following politics and I cannot remember a Senatorial primary that has gotten anything like the attention this race in Connecticut has received. It's amazing to think that, not all that long ago, Ned Lamont was a virtual unknown facing arguably the most well-known Democrat in the Senate and now has reached national prominence as a progressive leader. Regardless of what happens today, I think Ned Lamont is destined to play a roll in the Democratic party for many years to come.

To that end, I want to thank Ned Lamont for making it exciting to be a progressive Democrat again. I remember the 2004 election all too well, and the feeling that, while I'd have sooner voted for my trusty adding machine as president than George W. Bush, voting for Kerry as an "anybody but Bush" candidate was very unfulfilling. I respect John Kerry and I agree with most of his policy positions. I think he's a very intelligent, well-experienced politician and would have made a fine president. But for me he lacked that inspirational quality that separates an expert policymaker from a bold leader. He also ran almost as poor a campaign as Al Gore, proving for the second time that allowing the GOP (and Karl Rove) to set the election playing field is a huge handicap once the game is afoot.

That's why I want to say "Thanks" to Ned Lamont: he is an inspiring leader in the mold of Russ Feingold or Al Gore (2000 was an aberration). He is proudly progressive, not cautiously centrist. The Democrats in recent years have often seemed to forget that while a candidate's particular political philosophy is a factor in elections, it's not necessarily the largest factor. A strong stand for that philosophy is campaign gold, as Lamont has so skillfully demonstrated. If the political career of George W. Bush has taught us anything (other than the usefulness of being rich, white and politically connected) is that a strong stance, no matter how egregiously wrong or damaging to the country, is more appealing to voters than a calculated attempt at appealing to as wide a voter demographic as possible. It's a little horrifying to consider what this reality says about the American electorate, but then you use the democracy you have not the democracy you'd like to have.

My support of Lamont is not to say that I necessarily think Joe Lieberman is a bad fellow. He was always far too conservative for my tastes and his tendency towards religious moralizing is a tremendous strike against him. Beyond that, though, what really has turned me off about Lieberman is his oft demonstrated failure to support his fellow party members. While I certainly don't think marching in lockstep is healthy for the Democrats or our democracy in general, as the GOP has demonstrated over the past 20 years, nonetheless I think it is important to recognize and support those fighting the same fight as you. Lieberman has been only too willing to distance himself time and again from his Democratic colleagues in a vain attempt to create a center where one often does not exist. Just as most issues have more than just a conservative and a liberal angle, most issues do not have a convenient middle ground for bi-partisanship between those two poles. There's no such thing as "conscience clause" contraception ban that only kind of strips women of their rights or illegal wars that could be morally justifiable if only they were managed more effectively. There's often no clear middle ground on fundamental policy issues, which is why we have two very different political parties (or should have, anyway). Lieberman's attempts to create an imaginary middle ground where none exists has helped fuel the perception that Democrats don't have any firm policy principles, while giving the GOP a "useful idiot" to lend the specter of bi-partisanship to whatever theocratic or plutocratic legislation the movement conservatives can dream up. To paraphrase what a commenter at firedoglake said recently: Compromise without an honest dealer on the other side is nothing but capitulation.

I predicted earlier today, at Ezra's place, that Lieberman would win today. Our electoral system is tremendously tilted in favor of the incumbent, and Joe Lieberman, for all his faults, is no lightweight in the political ring. However, after doing some reading at MyDD and DailyKos, I've changed my mind. I hadn't really stopped to consider the motivation factor. Lamont's supporters are energized, excited and taking their cause to the streets all across Connecticut. Lieberman's campaign, on the other hand, reeks of apathy and entitlement. The statements coming from Lieberman's camp remind me of nothing so much as the pre-fight posturing engaged in by a boxing trainer who knows he's putting up a fighter too far past that fighter's glory days to compete (such as Arturo Gatti's recent fight against Carlos Baldomir). Lieberman's campaign seems to have lost all its "joementum", while Lamont's people remain focused and engaged. Thus, my revised prediction is:

Ned Lamont 51%
Lieberman 49%

It's going to be a nail-biter, but in the end I think Lamont will carry the day. I also don't believe Lieberman will challenge the results if he loses. I fully expect Lieberman to make good on his insinuation that he might run as an Independent; actually, I wouldn't even be terribly surprised if he ran as a Republican. In either case, Lieberman knows from personal experience how damaging a failed recount bid can be and will avoid one at all costs.

I see Ned Lamont well on his way to being Connecticut's newest junior Senator by this time tomorrow.

The tide is turning 'round...

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