The not-entirely-unexpected primary loss of Sen. Joe’mentum’ Lieberman to insurgent Ned Lamont, demonstrates the Democrats are not having any more ‘business as usual’ this election season. Voters are motivated to make a change, as evidenced by the unprecedented 50%+ turnout in the Nutmeg State. I don’t expect such turnout to be the norm, but it shows that participation will be higher than normal this year where there are strongly contested races.
Here in Southern Arizona, this likely means high turnouts in the highly contested Congressional races in CD 8, CD 5, CD 1, and state-wide for Janent and Jim, for both the contested primaries and the general election. Incumbents who are strongly associated with Bush and the Congressional GOP caucus had best watch out, and challengers wishing to overcome incumbent advantage need to make use of Lamont’s strategy of tying their opponents to the overwhelmingly despised Bush. Strangely, this will be hardest to do in CD 8 where there is an open seat, and the big money Republican candidate, Steve Huffman, is associated most with Jim Kolbe, not Bush’s favorite Republican, and the early-polling front-runner, Randy Graf, draws his popularity from rejecting Bush’s policies on immigration.
In a more long-term perspective, Joe’s demise (only the fourth incumbent Senator unseated in a primary contest since 1980) is a rallying cry warning all Democrats that there is no longer any safe middle ground on which it is safe for ‘moderates’ to stand aloof from the struggle with the Bush Administration and the Right Wing of the GOP for the future of America. Democrats are demanding confrontation, not with the GOP in general, nor with conservatives, but with Bush and the radical Republicans who are trying to remake our institutions and politics in ways that the majority of Americans are not at all comfortable with. It is no longer acceptable to be tolerant of the forces of fundie-corporatist fascism.
Joe also demonstrates that Democrats cannot be fear-mongers and get away with it among their own. The ‘Scoop Jackson’ Democrat, ready to attack other Demcrats as ‘weak’ on national defense for not toeing some belligerent ‘cold war’ line on defense policy, has been repudiated. We Democrats don’t want our politicians to undercut our party’s efforts to offer Americans a rational, non-fear-based alternative to the mindlessly violent, chauvinistic foriegn policy of the GOP. If national polling on support for immediate troop withdrawals from Iraq of 60% can be relied on, independents as well as Democrats will respond to the Democrats’ message in November. The Iraq war will be front and center in every election this year, and Democrats will win that debate if they stay united.
More than anything else, Joe’s and Cynthia McKinney’s primary defeats demonstrate that Democrats are ready and willing to purge the ranks of our office-holders who embarrass us, either by being insufficiently partisan in order to aggrandize himself, or by just being annoying and embarrassing generally. We are serious about backing people who are willing to stand up for Democratic values, who are capable of carrying our standard to the voters, and who are capable of making us feel proud of being Democrats again.
Joe has already filed to make an independent run for Senate in Connecticut. The fact that Joe would even consider doing this is a central reason why he lost in the first place. When asked about the result of the primary and his independent bid, Lieberman said, "For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand." So he’s running an independent campaign for the sake of the Democratic party? He won’t let the judgment of the democratic process stand after the highest turnout primary in Connecticut history? That is what the ancients termed hubris. If Joe continues with this vain and arrogant attitude, by the time this election is over, he may well have made the transition from being one of the most recognized and respected politicians in the country, to one of the most despised and derided.