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May 07, 2006

Wild And Crazy Netroots

By Ezra

Jon Chait's column explaining his moral turmoil over Ned Lamont's primary challenge is surprisingly incoherent, particularly given what a clear and systematic thinker Chait usually is. As I see it, the case for Joe Lieberman isn't hard to make: the guy has a generally left-wing voting record but represents a hawkish extreme. I don't consider that acceptable, but given Chait's numerous apologias for John McCain, I don't see why he wouldn't. But instead, this is where Chait finds himself:

In the end, though, I can't quite root for Lieberman to lose his primary. What's holding me back is that the anti-Lieberman campaign has come to stand for much more than Lieberman's sins. It's a test of strength for the new breed of left-wing activists who are flexing their muscles within the party. These are exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They think in simple slogans and refuse to tolerate any ideological dissent.

So Lieberman should win not because the critique of him is wrong, but because his critics think in slogans? How bizarre. If the netroots are right on the merits, and Chait's reluctance to substantively defend Lieberman suggests he thinks they are, then their simplistic sloganeering belies subtle, sophisticated political minds that he might wish to listen to. After all, they're right.

As for the netroots' supposed inability to tolerate ideological dissent, I happen to know that's untrue. Why? Because this guy Jon Chait, a couple paragraphs earlier, smartly explained that "lots of Democrats supported the Iraq war initially and believe now that we can and must win. Moderates such as Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton say this all the time. But you don't see anybody trying to oust them." In other words, the test isn't ideological at all, as evidenced by the netroots' full acceptance of Democrats ideologically indistinguishable from Lieberman. What's activated liberal passions, as diagnosed by Chait, "is that Lieberman, unlike other Democratic hawks, musters little passion for exposing and correcting the massive blunders the Bush administration has committed."

"[E]xposing and correcting the massive blunders the Bush administration has committed." Some litmus test. I see now why we can't let these loose cannons influence the direction of the party.

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Comments

It isn't just the Bush blunders that Lieberman can't see. Lieberman is a Bush enabler, and Democratic party-underminer. On his repeated Fox visits he sounds just like Zell Miller did before he denounced the Dems at the Republican convention. I can see Lieberman doing exactly the same thing. Disagreement is one thing, disloyalty and harming the party is beyond the pale.

Any Dem. office holder that denounces fellow Dems in the terms that Lieberman does, or kisses BushCo ass like Joe does regularly, deserves to be unceremoniously kicked out of the party by removal from office by a better Dem. candidate.

Gus like Chiat fear the Dem moderates and left more than they do the semi-fascist atrocities of the Republican right. Why is that? Why should anyone listen to the Chiats of the media?

The DLC/Warhawk/TNR types (like Chiat and Beinhart) are only clear and systematic in their fear of the 'great unwashed'. (and yes, I'm in my underwear).

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 7, 2006 7:50:37 PM

Lieberman's latest profile in courage is his proposal to dismantle FEMA -- an especially disingenuous move coming from the genius who came up with the original idea for the clusterfuck known as the Department of Homeland Security. But it's all in a day's work for Smokin' Joe. That Chait's all befuddled about the possible departure of Senator Putz says a lot more about him and the TNR crowd, than anything else.

Posted by: sglover | May 7, 2006 8:24:48 PM

I don't see Chait's reasoning as all that misguided. I'm supporting Joe Lieberman because his politics most closely allign with my own and I think argument's in favor Lieberman that aren't based on defending his votes & causes are disingenous I.E. "Don't rock the boat" or "He's liberal enough" That said, I would support strategically voting for Lieberman in order act against a rather uncouth element of the party if you believe enocuraging it would have negative consequences. I had nothing against Lamont, but my opinion of him boosted after reading that TNR piece on him where even he is embarassed by some of the people most zealously challenging him, and he should be.

"As for the netroots' supposed inability to tolerate ideological dissent, I happen to know that's untrue. Why? Because this guy Jon Chait, a couple paragraphs earlier, smartly explained that "lots of Democrats supported the Iraq war initially and believe now that we can and must win. Moderates such as Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton say this all the time. But you don't see anybody trying to oust them.""

It would seem that both of you aren't up to date on the opinions of the blogosphere. The bloglanders have expressed nothing but contempt for Biden at best & they absolutely loathe Hilary. In fact, I would imagine the anti-Hilary sentiment at Daily Kos has surpassed the anti-Lieberman sentiment in terms of pure vitriol. And the main source of this animosity are opinions on the war.

Posted by: Dustin | May 7, 2006 8:37:48 PM

Are they though? Because the Kos piece ends up lauding Mark Warner, an admitted and continuing Iraq supporter. And I seem to remember the blogs embracing a host of moderate candidates, from Brad Carson in Oklahoma to Ken Salazar in Colorado.

Posted by: Ezra | May 7, 2006 8:51:03 PM

Hillary and Biden are not respected on many of the left blogs not because they are moderate, but because they don't fight BushCo and don't offer real alternatives (although Biden has recently offered an alternative on Iraq: partition).

The blogs argue that 'me too' won't win elections - the major concern of the left is getting Repubs out of power, this year in Congress, two years from now in the presidency.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 7, 2006 8:59:13 PM

I do agree with Chait's reasoning. The grassroots/netroots isn't a support group for party activists, and it isn't an ATM for candidates. If the grassroots/netroots/party partisans want to prove their strength, they need to show that they can, if necessary, take someone down in the same way that candidates know that Shumer can, if necessary, make a few phone calls and cut off the money supply of any candidate. On a practical level, since Lieberman has acted as an outright apologist for the Bush administration getting rid of him would eliminate a pro-Bush voice in the media. On a factional level, it would send a message to the Democratic party that the grassroots/netroots/party activists have power, not just money and "influence." If the netroots/grassroots want a "seat at the table," they need to be able to show that they are ignored by the party at its peril... since Lieberman has become a symbol of antagonism against the Iraq-skeptics and netroots, he's the one who should suffer the consequenes from those targets of his antagonism.

Posted by: Constantine | May 7, 2006 9:13:45 PM

"What's activated liberal passions, as diagnosed by Chait, "is that Lieberman, unlike other Democratic hawks, musters little passion for exposing and correcting the massive blunders the Bush administration has committed."

Bad analysis from Chait.

Lamont is the result of a vendetta from the summer of '03 when Lieberman came out against Dean back when no other candidate was willing to cross the Officially Sanctioned Netroots.

The folks who pushed hardest for a primary challenge to Lieberman were the same people who threatened to do so back in summer '03 specifically in response to his attacks on Dean.

We're witnessing mafia style payback. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, given that the Officially Sanctioned Netroots are the gang that couldn't shoot straight, I'd expect Lieberman to win considerably more comfortably than most folks expect.

Posted by: Petey | May 7, 2006 9:22:47 PM

Look, even aside from Iraq, Lieberman helped whore out the Congress in the name of bankruptcy "reform". Biden, too. With "moderates" like these two, who needs Republicans?

Posted by: sglover | May 7, 2006 10:07:38 PM

Lamont is the result of a vendetta from the summer of '03 when Lieberman came out against Dean back when no other candidate was willing to cross the Officially Sanctioned Netroots.

Oh, bullshit. This isn't just about Dean. This is about Iraq and Abu Ghraib and the NSA domestic spying scandal and every other national security clusterfuck in which Lieberman has chosen to reflexively defend the administration rather than do the right thing. If anything, Lieberman has been the one with the biggest chip on his shoulder here, carrying on like a martyr ever since his nomination fight went down in flames.

His need to constantly trash patriotic dissent in wartime and flirt with the increasingly monstrous administration of George W. Bush would be enough to target him, but Iran is what puts it over the top for me. At some point in the next several months George Bush is going to try leading the charge into the next bloody and pointless war, and there needs to be real political pressure on people like Lieberman to stop them from aiding and abeting him again.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | May 7, 2006 10:45:37 PM

The folks who pushed hardest for a primary challenge to Lieberman were the same people who threatened to do so back in summer '03 specifically in response to his attacks on Dean.

Lieberman's done such a great job in opposing the disastrous Bush presidency (and in helping Gore win to prevent it in the first place?) that I should give a damn if someone wants to whack him (politically speaking)? If the man's got political enemies, well, good, he earned them.

Posted by: NBarnes | May 7, 2006 11:05:01 PM

It's a test of strength for the new breed of left-wing activists who are flexing their muscles within the party. These are exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They think in simple slogans and refuse to tolerate any ideological dissent.

Good call. Anybody that doesn't HATE BUSH doesn't rate with them (you).

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 7, 2006 11:06:02 PM

"I should give a damn if someone wants to whack him (politically speaking)? If the man's got political enemies, well, good, he earned them."

I'm not saying you should give a damn. I'm just saying why this is taking place.

Posted by: Petey | May 7, 2006 11:28:57 PM

At a 33% approval rate, exposing Bush's sins has to take a back seat to constructive proposals at some point. First time Fred's made sense.

Posted by: opit | May 7, 2006 11:47:21 PM

At a 33% approval rate, exposing Bush's sins has to take a back seat to constructive proposals at some point.

Right now, a proposal involving restoration of oversight by the legislative branch over the executive branch would be a start.

Any oversight.

Posted by: Dr. Squid | May 7, 2006 11:57:59 PM

At a 33% approval rate, exposing Bush's sins has to take a back seat to constructive proposals at some point.

Lieberman's last constructive proposal was "shut up and trust the president."

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | May 8, 2006 12:18:48 AM

These are exactly the sorts of fanatics...

This choice of words tells you what you need to know about Chait. This is the guy who felt it worth his while, during the primary season, to dedicate his energies to an anti-Dean blog in which he gave play to all the circulating counterDean talking points. This is insider tribalism talking, and Chait's "moral turmoil" is actually fear of an outgroup that's threatening his privilege.

And enough with this business about Lieberman and his liberal, liberal voting record. I give him credit for that: good on him. But the democratic leadership -- and he is part of the leadership -- has to offer more than their votes. They have to offer the actual leadership part. What has put Republicans so far ahead for so long is their superior narrative; it's a chicken for every pot that doesn't cost them like real chickens would. What makes Lieberman so toxic is that he poisons the Democrats' effort, feeble though it may be, to develop a narrative. Every time he opens his mouth on teevee, he undermines the narrative. We need him out not because of his voting record, but because we need him to shut the hell up.

Posted by: cerebrocrat | May 8, 2006 12:40:52 AM

Gus like Chiat fear the Dem moderates and left more than they do the semi-fascist atrocities of the Republican right. Why is that?

Short answer: who knows?
Longer answer: it reminds me of something I read recently, I think it was on atrios but don't quote me on that, which said basically that most of the media and pundits are stuck in a mindset of Rockefeller Republicans versus democratic peace liberals. Whether it's because of wishful thinking or deliberate deception or just extreme stupidity among the punditocracy, they don't seem to have figured out that it's now (speaking very roughly) theocons on the right versus realists on the left.

So to them, any Republican who supports stuff like NCLB or invading Iraq somehow manages to be both a moderate and a maverick at the same time, while any Democrat who opposes them is a hypocrite and/or hates America. Um, there's a serious problem with this worldview.

Posted by: Cyrus | May 8, 2006 12:54:20 AM

And because I'm a filthy blogho, I liked my own Shorter formation of Chait's column:

If you beat Joe Lieberman in the primary, you'll only make him mad.


Posted by: Dr. Squid | May 8, 2006 1:36:04 AM

Chait's support for Lieberman is likely connected to his frequent flacking for Israel, a proclivity they both share. He didn't say "exactly the sorts of [anti-semitic] fanatics..." but it wouldn't be surprising if he had that in mind.

Posted by: cynic | May 8, 2006 2:56:50 AM

As for the netroots' supposed inability to tolerate ideological dissent, I happen to know that's untrue. Why? Because this guy Jon Chait, a couple paragraphs earlier, smartly explained that "lots of Democrats supported the Iraq war initially and believe now that we can and must win. Moderates such as Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton say this all the time. But you don't see anybody trying to oust them."

What???? Kos just penned an editorial that was spread like a virus this weekend about how Hillary Clinton can't win the Presidency specicifically because of his precious netroots' dislike of her. Kos "tolerates ideological dissent" in as much as he will support any Democrat that he thinks can win. If/when Lieberman defeats Lamont in the primary, Kos will urge everyone in Connecticut to vote for him. That is Kos' ideology- Democrats good, Republicans bad, you're either with us or against us- and while the article was confusing Chait's main point that that line of thinking can strip the Democratic Party of any actual agenda is accurate.

Posted by: August J. Pollak | May 8, 2006 7:08:57 AM

That's just the point. Kos has no ideology, he's fully tolerant of dissent. Indeed, that's what I find most troubling about him. All he's got is partisanship and pugilism, and those, not ideology, are the litmus tests Lieberman fails. Mixing them up, however, is not productive.

And so far as I know, Chait never made a point about Lieberman's defeat stripping the party of an agenda. The closest he came, with his reference of the McGovernite wing of the party in 70's, was quite the opposite: that Lieberman's defeat would imbue the party with an agenda Chait didn't support. And on that, he's just wrong.

Posted by: Ezra | May 8, 2006 7:16:50 AM

Two sincere questions, coming from a righty.

1. Do you guys really think that you need every Democratic Senator to "expose" the Bush administration? I appreciate that you hate the Bushies, but they are done. Do you really think that Democratic chances in 2008 will improve if you spend 2007 hammering on Bush? Isn't that the same tomfoolery that the Republicans pulled with Clinton, much to their chagrin? And, yes, I know you all think the issues are much more serious in the case of Bush, but you can't get away from the likely result that it will distract everybody from enacting the Democrats actual legislative agenda by wasting time and uniting Republicans.

2. Is there any chance that Lieberman is coming under attack because he is one of the few Democrats of national stature who really comes off as genuinely religious?

Both questions are genuine, and not intended to be snarky in any way, shape or form.

Posted by: TigerHawk | May 8, 2006 7:49:33 AM

This may come off as glib, but it's actually quite sincere:

1) Yes. As for the concern that discrediting Bush's mutant version of conservatism "will distract everybody from enacting the Democrats actual legislative agenda by wasting time and uniting Republicans," I think that's hogwash. Democrats don't control a single house of anything, there's no progressive enaction in the offing. The key now is to stop the current crew from doing further harm.

2) No, and I sincerely think even floating it is silly and divisive. Lieberman, by the way, is a Jew, and liberals are historically down wit them.

Posted by: Ezra | May 8, 2006 8:07:41 AM

Do you really think that Democratic chances in 2008 will improve if you spend 2007 hammering on Bush? Isn't that the same tomfoolery that the Republicans pulled with Clinton, much to their chagrin?

Indeed. I remember how honarably George W. Bush maneuvered his 2000 campaign to make no references to the prior administration; I mean, that would have been unfair.

Posted by: August J. Pollak | May 8, 2006 8:40:29 AM

"Chait's support for Lieberman is likely connected to his frequent flacking for Israel, a proclivity they both share."

Is flacking for Israel really so rare that he would support Lieberman based solely on that?

"He didn't say "exactly the sorts of [anti-semitic] fanatics..." but it wouldn't be surprising if he had that in mind."

So Let's see,

Chait probably supports Joe Lieberman because of "Israel"

When Chait says Fanatics he really mean't "anti-semitic fanatics"

Hate to use a cliche, but me thinks you doth protest too much.

Posted by: Dustin | May 8, 2006 1:21:36 PM

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