Friday, August 04, 2006

Lieberman's Lament

"A Ned Lamont win could well be seen as a mighty blow struck in favor of all who feel Washington needs a deep, thorough house-cleaning."
Next Tuesday's Connecticut primary battle between incumbent U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont is shaping up to be -- potentially, at least -- a national test of whether the Democratic Party can find its spine. If the backbone that's been conspicuously missing in the national Democratic Party leadership over the last six years does happen to show up, it will be because the rank-and-file voters of Connecticut demanded it, not because Democratic Party leaders willingly supplied one or worthy bloggers like Jane Hamsher and her colleagues at Firedog Lake performed the surgery.

Lieberman is running seriously behind in the polls -- and getting behinder. It's hardly news that Ned Lamont's criticisms of his record resonate with a great many Connecticut voters. Three of those criticisms were what inspired Lamont to run against Lieberman in the first place: But there's much more as Jeff Greenfield, among many others, has pointed out. Lieberman also is on record favoring, among other bad Bush administration ideas --
Apart from these specific issues on which most Democrats (and many traditional conservatives) would agree, there may be something else going on. Something much bigger. Something that transcends Lieberman's faults or Lamont's virtues or the issues-platform of either political party.

It's what The Enigmatic Paradox almost put his finger on over a week ago:
Lamont’s overnight success reflects an endemic political despair. * * * [M]any voters have lost all confidence and have simply given up. They’re convinced not only that Washington is incapable of change but doesn’t even ‘get it.’ It’s not just liberal Democrats. And it’s not just about Bush. Or the war.

While the political establishment is institutionally incapable of admitting it, there’s a palpable public disillusionment in Washington. Underneath a patina of didacticism created by the chattering class, there’s a national hopelessness, an abiding conviction that no one invested in the current system is willing, far less able, to implement a needed house cleaning. So, as an outsider with his own fortune, Lamont comes across not only as the fresh-faced nerd who can’t be bought, but also as a way to send Washington an unmistakable political message.

* * *
In large part it’s the Iraq war. But that’s only one symptom. It’s also Katrina, Abramoff, the budget deficit, the balance of trade deficit, the growth in Federal spending, the emergence of earmarks as political currency, the widening gap between rich and poor, the decline of American status around the world – in short, a litany of synonyms for disenchantment that crosses party and ideology, a pervasive feeling that the government and the political establishment have lost not only control but all self-discipline.
Voters in "political despair"? Yes, it would appear so. Even Lieberman himself recognized this seven long years ago when he decried the "steady decline in electoral participation" that causes the U.S. to be ranked "139th in voter turn-out -- the lowest of any major democratic nation."

But have we "given up"? Maybe not.

With considerable justification, Bush's "favorite Democrat" is perceived by many -- not just those who live in Connecticut, but across the nation -- as the archetype Washington insider. He is seen, like so many other incumbent senators and congressmen, as part of the problem.

Or, as Molly Ivins put it somewhat more forcefully four months ago:
I don’t know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton.
By contrast, Ned Lamont looks like "the real deal. He's an intelligent man with real positions," in Taegen Goddard's words. He's not the kind of guy who will vote himself a cadillac health care plan while neglecting to make it possible for more than 45 million Americans to afford basic health coverage. Nor, one senses, is Lamont the sort who would betray paradise for the benefit of oil conglomerates.

That's why a Ned Lamont win would strike a mighty blow in favor of all who feel Washington needs a deep, thorough house-cleaning. And that is the true source of Lieberman's lament: that voters would even consider, to use Josh Marshall's phrase, depriving an incumbent of his royal "entitlement" to continue playing to "insider Beltway opinion."

A Lamont win might, just might, signal that this is the year American voters take their government back. And that's why incumbent congressmen and senators across the nation will be anxiously watching the Connecticut primary next Tuesday.

Amplification Dept.

CT Blogger notes that the National Observer is reporting:
If Democratic challenger Ned Lamont beats Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Senate primary next Tuesday, we're told, Democrats will sigh heavily and wring their sweaty palms for the rest of 2006.
Someone with the screen name Realistic Idealist at Daily Kos rattles off a list of 29 Reasons Lieberman Is In Trouble That Have Nothing to Do With Iraq.

In stark contrast, the Boston Globe's Rick Klein -- or whoever writes his headlines -- reports, "In Conn. Senate Race, It's All About War."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kick-ass photo!