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July 09, 2006

Losing Joementum

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

His continued support of the Iraq War and attacks on the patriotism of its opponents are the main reasons for opposing Joe Lieberman, but his history of attacks on fellow Democrats and liberal ideals is much longer.  There was his support of DOMA in 1996, his scolding of Clinton during the impeachment hearings in 1998, his flirtation with private accounts during the early days of the Social Security fight, and his cloture vote on Alito. While his overall voting record isn't bad, it's hard to see Ned Lamont as anything but an upgrade, especially as far as winning media battles is concerned. 

What's really exciting about this race is the message it'll send to safe-state Democrats who may occasionally be driven to Liebermania by the siren song of the anti-partisan media: bashing your party for personal gain is unacceptable, and Democrats in safe seats are expected to do their part in moving the country leftward.  Betrayals of the party and liberal ideals, whether for reasons pragmatic or psychological, may come with the consequence of a primary defeat. 

I generally agree with folks like Petey who think that moderate-seeming Democrats will attract more votes, but Joe Lieberman is the kind of moderate who gives his party a radical image.  Garance has a good post on this.  Criticizing "extremists" in your party and making opponents of the war look like unpatriotic radicals does nothing to help Claire McCaskill and Harold Ford win their Senate races.  By painting a picture of unpatriotic extreme antiwar Democrats, Lieberman damages the party's brand and hurts Democrats everywhere. 

Triangulation makes sense as a strategy for individual candidates, but it's not a strategy that an entire party can engage in.  In a country with an established two-party system, the media will define the space of moderate opinion relative to the parties themselves.  No party will be able to gain a lasting reputation for moderation by compromising and moving towards its opponents. All that'll happen is that the space of moderation will be narrowed, and opinions that previously were considered moderate will be regarded as extreme. 

Consider the idea of invading Iraq.  Even setting aside the WMD issue, it's hard to imagine that early poll numbers in favor of invading would've been high if we were under a responsible Republican administration that itself rejected the idea of invasion as ridiculous.  Support for the war would then fall outside the range of acceptable moderate opinion.  This analysis applies better to new issues where minds aren't made up than old ones where most people have come to a firm opinion, but on things like foreign policy proposals and judicial nominations, we need to realize that the battle of public opinion is still out there to be won.  Lieberman must not be allowed to sabotage Democrats by narrowing the space of moderation so that our views look extreme. 

I don't want my safe-seat Democrats triangulating into moderate positions.  I want them to explore new territory on the left, so that when our Arkansas and Nebraska Senators triangulate off of them, they end up in positions that are fairly good, or at least non-destructive.  And that's why I have no use for Joe Lieberman.  Where Lamont would stretch the field leftward as a moderate personality with progressive views, Lieberman compresses it and perpetuates negative stereotypes of Democrats.  It's time to remove him from politics, and threaten anyone who follows his path with a similar fate. 

July 9, 2006 in Democrats | Permalink

Comments

I think you nailed it. Great post.

Posted by: DivGuy | Jul 9, 2006 8:46:58 AM

There was his support of DOMA in 1996...

I thought Clinton, himself, signed DOMA. So now Lieberman takes the heat for it?

...his scolding of Clinton during the impeachment hearings in 1998...

Everyone scolded Clinton. Good lord! How could anyone not?

It appears that when a Republican politician votes his conscience, such as McCain, he is a "Maverick", a "man of integrity and courage" for standing up to his party and if he's a Democrat who votes his conscience, he's just an old asshole and a traitor. Go figure...

This is the same guy you chose for for vice president just 2 years ago. Amazing!

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jul 9, 2006 9:20:57 AM

"It's time to remove him from politics, and threaten anyone who follows his path with a similar fate."

From my understanding, Lieberman votes with the Dems 90% of the time, yet you guys want to drum him out of your party? When your party is already in the minority? A guy who will probably still win his seat even if he loses the primary?

Big tent party, eh? Do you actually think kicking Lieberman out of the party because of one issue will help the party anywhere in the US?

The Right isn't trying to ouster Susan Collins, Olympia Snow or Lincoln Chafee, all RINOs who's voting record isn't nearly as in line with the Republican party as Lieberman's voting record is with the Dems.

After the Dems get rid of all the pro-Iraq war Dems, who is next? The pro-life Dems? The pro-life Dems are already not allowed to speak at the the convention(not in prime time anyway).

I understand you live in a liberal bubble, but moving the party to the left will not help. Just because people don't like the way Bush is handling the war doesn't mean they want to surrender. Many people think we are fighting the war too 'sensitively'.

In the upcoming debates around the country, any Dem who supported Murtha's plan to surrender is in trouble. The Republican opponents are going to follow Lieberman's playbook against Lamont. Lamont may appeal to the liberals but he is going to get spanked in the general election by Lieberman if Lamont wins the primary.

In regards to races like Ford's in TN, his opponents are using the fact that Harold Ford Jr. is a Democrat, the same party as Dean, Durbin, Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Michael Moore, liberal Hollywood, etc., they using the fact that he is a Dem against him. The only reason Bredesen is Gov is because he was mayor of Nashville and has alot of name recognition, kind of like Casey in PA.

I guess the Dems are no longer the 'big tent' party. If you don't walk in lockstep with the far-left faction of the party on every issue, you will be ostrasized.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 9, 2006 9:35:15 AM

Neil,

This should be required reading for all Democratic politicians, activists, officials, consultants (perhaps as a "you're fired" gift), pundits, voluteers - everyone.

You mapped out a blueprint for the national party to follow in order to make sure that it is actually the "big tent" we want it to be.

Posted by: Stephen | Jul 9, 2006 10:32:47 AM

Excellent post.

Posted by: Christmas | Jul 9, 2006 10:36:43 AM

"You mapped out a blueprint for the national party to follow in order to make sure that it is actually the "big tent" we want it to be."

Yeah, you can come in our tent only if you are willing to goose-step with the rest of us.

I love the '"big tent" we want it to be' phrasing. What does that mean? It sounds like 'you can be part of our group only if you agree with everything we do'. Now that is some serious diversity!

You're an idiot stephen. The idea of a 'big tent' is differing points of view with respect to those differing points of view. Not "If you don't toe the party line, we'll kick you out". The Dems can't even put out a cohesive strategy on Iraq.

Did you notice how the Republicans allowed pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage Republicans to have prominant roles at the Republican convention? What party is really more tolerant of views that don't mesh with the party line?

All you pro-life Dems better watch out, you're next.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 9, 2006 11:02:34 AM

All you pro-life Dems better watch out, you're next

You mean like Harry Reid, Senate minority leader?

Posted by: Christmas | Jul 9, 2006 11:05:11 AM

Fine post, Neil. The essence of the anti-Joe movement is that he attacks as subversives those in the Dem. party he disagrees with, using the same rhetoric as the Rovian Rightists (and the Joe McCarthy smears of an earlier era), instead of merely stating or voting his opinion. Susan Collins, Olympia Snow or Lincoln Chafee never attack their own party members in public. They are kept in line for crucial votes by threats of intra-party opposition candidates running against them in the next election (See: Pat Toomey-Arlen Specter).

Toke and Fred giving advice to the Dems is really pathetic. They must think their turnip truck will be an attractive ride for the Dem. faithful. Such delusion. How much does Rove or Bush pay attention to advice from anyone outside their circle (jerk) of neo/theo/corp conservatives?

There is no limit on the extreme views and language on the right (see: Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson, Michel Malkin, Grover Norquist), and they are featured prominently in the media, week after week.

Who are the equivalent left-boundary people in the Dem. party? Michael Moore, Russ Feingold and John Murtha? Is there any equivalency there at all? Not even comparable. All are essentially moderate, not extreme. How often do they get media (NYT, WaPo, cable TV) exposure? Almost never.

Joe needs to be retired to a bloviating 'news' job (see: blow job for Bush/Rove) at Faux News.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 9, 2006 11:25:12 AM

"You mean like Harry Reid, Senate minority leader?"

Well, the Dems have to get rid of all the pro-Iraq war people first. I imagine Reid will follow Kerry's lead and say he was wrong to oppose abortions the way Kerry said he was wrong to vote for the war.

The only reason Reid was selected is cuz the Dems just got their asses handed to them on 'family values' issues, which include abortion on demand. But the Dems have short memories. They got spanked in the last few elections because they can't be trusted with our national security. So right after the elections they talked tough on national security. But then their true nature creeps back in. Dean says we can't win the war, Murtha says our troops are killing innocents in cold blood and Kerry flip-flops about his vote for the war again.

Doesn't it bother you guys how little Americans trust Dems with national security? Even with the mistakes the administration has made in the Iraq war, Bush was re-elected. This shows how little the people trust Democrats with our national security. We went to war mainly because of WMDs. I remember thinking about six months after we invaded that if we didn't find WMDs Bush would be run out of office, I think a lot of people thought that. No WMDs were found.
The Democrats ran a 'war hero', while we were at war, against what the Left tried to portray as a 'draft dodger' (kind of ironic after Clinton). George Bush got more votes than any other presidential candidate, ever. The people do not trust Democrats with national security.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 9, 2006 11:27:40 AM

Captain Toke,

I'm only going to respond to you this once.

I would appreciate it if you would not quote anything I write. I'm not going to respond to you anyway, and it gets tiresome having one's words constantly and intentionally twisted to say the opposite of what they actually mean.

I understand that I can't stop you from doing this, and it does appear to give you some sort of satisfaction to "argue" in the way that you do.

I know that in the past I've responded to your baseless attacks and name-calling, but in the time you were away I discovered the joys of engaging grown-ups in actual discussions about the issues of the day.

Perhaps if you made an effort to write comments with substance, you might discover the same joys for yourself.

Posted by: Stephen | Jul 9, 2006 11:28:01 AM

Stephen,

That really clears up your vision of a 'big tent' that only allows those who capitulate to the far left.

Jim,

The Dems should keep following the track they've been on the last six years, that'll help them regain power.

>sarcasm off<

The fact the you think Michael Moore is a moderate shows where you and much of your party is in respect to the rest of America.

Preach on, wackos!

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 9, 2006 11:37:12 AM

Don't encourage them, Stephen.

Posted by: Christmas | Jul 9, 2006 11:48:19 AM

The base wants the Democrats to discover an 11th commandment to act as a counterweight to the borg like response of the right to batttles. It is no longer enough to support us in legislation while underminding the same efforts in public. Rhectoric and action must match up b/c perception shapes action, and vice versa.

People want to see leadership where the party will go into a battle where they may lose, but vote a certain way anyhow. It's incredibly easy to vote on popular items or agendas, but what shows leadership and character are when the chips are down. Sometimes battles define you not by whether you win them, but how you respond to them. On the Alito hearings, a Republican said to me that if the Democrats would at least be honest about where they stand and go with principles- that could at least be respected. That's not what we got. It's hard to look at that action and tell conservative leaning people- you know you may disagree, but at least this group has integrity so vote for them anyhow. In the recent decades so far the choice has been perceptions of no character on the left, and character on the right (real or not).

The Joe battle is one of perception of not only Iraq, but of leadership and character. How going forward will the party define it? By triangulation as HRC is doing or by some other approach? This is the core point. We can not continue to run away from those things that maybe controversial by staking out a position that is slightly to the left of Republicans. People have oft talked about this point, but to clarify it a bit- the reason why is not leadership a lone, it's because of character.

Does anyone remember back in the 80s and 90s when the Republicans used to talk about this. Even during 2004, I remember on Charlie Rose one of Bush's operatives used this language in describing how Bush would make a decision. Now, we know Bush uses polls, and we know that Reagan was full of crap. But, they both understand, unlike us, the importance of symbolism as one of the pillars of power in this society. What is at the heart of the battle of JL is a battle to win on all fronts and not simply how one votes b/c that is meaningless if you remain in the minority. These are fundamental questions about how one creates a sustainable majority. Not for just now, but for the future. Character- define ours- will lead to that more than any set of policies ever will.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 9, 2006 11:52:50 AM

Good points. The "Big Tent" only includes those who agree with the hard left's position on the war, queer politics and socialism. It's more like "Our Tent" and not "Your Tent".

This discussion of ostracizing Lieberman, who just two years ago was their pick for vice president, shows exactly how "Big Tent" these people really are.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jul 9, 2006 11:56:02 AM

How much does Rove or Bush pay attention to advice from anyone outside their circle...

Rove and Bush *WIN* elections.

I really hope the Dems toss Lieberman and he runs as an independent. I believe he can win outside the party in his home state.

Wouldn't that be a message!


Posted by: Fred Jones | Jul 9, 2006 12:19:38 PM

This is the same guy you chose for for vice president just 2 years ago. Amazing!

This discussion of ostracizing Lieberman, who just two years ago was their pick for vice president, shows exactly how "Big Tent" these people really are.

You've got every bit as good a grasp on recent history as you do on the causes of the Civil War, Fred.


Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft | Jul 9, 2006 12:20:39 PM

What compels people to troll on blogs, do you think? I really don't understand the impulse. It's the equivalent of showing up at the party of some people you don't know, loudly insulting them, and then sticking around to insult them some more. This can't be any more fun for the troll than it is for the commenters, yet they spend thousands of words on the activity every week. Do they not know how to find right-wing blogs? Have they all been banned from RedState? Is this just a desperate cry for help? Open up, Fred and Toke. We'll listen.

Posted by: Christmas | Jul 9, 2006 12:35:39 PM

The only reason Bredesen is Gov is because he was mayor of Nashville and has alot of name recognition, kind of like Casey in PA.

Actually, Bredesen won in '02 because opponent Van Hilleary was a hopeless nimrod, the kind that makes Dubya look like... well, if not a Rhodes Scholar, at least an honor roll student (his corrupt GOP predecessor, Don Sundquist, benefited similarly in 1998 with a rather intemperate opponent, who even I couldn't vote for). Plus, Bredesen made sure that Nashville, and by extension, the state, got a lot of flash for their tax dollars-- most importantly, he got the Oilers to leave Houston & become the TN Titans, which appealed to the Southern (and smaller-city) inferiority complex that is so common. The man's charisma-free, but he is an able administrator, and IME his office staff is much more efficient & responsive than is the norm among politicians.

Having said that, it looks like Tweedledee & Tweedledum have kinda taken over this thread. The fact is that Lieberman is a scold, a media whore, and one who undermines his supposed allies for personal aggrandizement, so he needs to go.

Posted by: latts | Jul 9, 2006 12:44:41 PM

That hopeless nimrod Van Hilleary only lost 52% to 48% if memory serves me. It is a good thing he wasn't a nimrod that had some hope, he might have won.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 9, 2006 1:24:01 PM

"Joe needs to be retired to a bloviating 'news' job (see: blow job for Bush/Rove) at Faux News."

Hey Jim, check this out.

"The Fox News Channel is the most trusted news source in America, according to a new poll released by the BBC and Reuters that surveyed 10,000 news consumers around the world."

Not only does Fox News have more viewers than all other cable news outlets combined, but Fox News is more trusted than any other media source in the US. More than CBS, NYT, ABC, NBC, WaPo, CNN, etc.

Fox News, Fair and Balanced

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 9, 2006 1:33:48 PM

Well, it is Tennessee, and East TN's, um, peculiar. Luckily, I've only lived in Memphis & Nashville, and for good reason.

Posted by: latts | Jul 9, 2006 1:45:17 PM

Toke: The Fox News Channel is the most trusted news source in America

Fox, Fox, that name sounds familiar.

Oh right -- they were the ones who went to court to fight for their First Amendment right to lie or deliberately distort news reports, weren't they?


Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft | Jul 9, 2006 1:48:08 PM

" they were the ones who went to court to fight for their First Amendment right to lie or deliberately distort news reports, weren't they?"


So you found that a Fox affiliate, not Fox News Channel, but a Fox Broadcast Co. local affiliate went to court and ended up winning. Is that the best you can do? On wikipedia no less, the site that lets anyone contribute.

That is better research than CBS's Bush/TANG forged documents story, or Newsweeks Gitmo/Koran in the toilet story that led to numerous deaths, or NYT's oversight of Jason Blair, etc.

Fox News Channel is the most trusted for a reason.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 9, 2006 2:07:26 PM

"This is the same guy you chose for for vice president just 2 years ago. Amazing!"

Fred Jones appears to be working with four year old talking points today. I hope he starts talking about talking Saddam Hussein out.

"Well, the Dems have to get rid of all the pro-Iraq war people first. I imagine Reid will follow Kerry's lead and say he was wrong to oppose abortions the way Kerry said he was wrong to vote for the war."

Captain Toke, on the other hand, has decided that political analysis is easier and more fun if he just imagines everything that happens. It's only a matter of time before you get a job at Newsmax, Toke!

All kidding aside, dynamite post, Neil. This is exactly the reason I feel it's important to defeat Lieberman - we are still, far and away, the big tent party, but no tent is big enough for trolls (Yes, I am here saying Fred Jones:this blog as Lieberman:Democratic party.) A question, though - much of the popular conception of the race is still that this is a primary over the Iraq war. Do you think it's more helpful to fight it on that theme, or rather the theme we discuss here - of shifting the nationaal debate to the right? I'm pretty sure most of us are in agreement that the latter is more harmful, but at the same time, that's a much more difficult message to get across than an issue position.

It strikes me that perhaps a good way to go about this would be to attack him on multiple issues: Iraq, Social Security, Alito, and "short rides", for instance. His performance on all of those issues is pretty sad, and calling attention to it would really just feed into the narrative we've been struggling to get across.

Posted by: Jon O. | Jul 9, 2006 2:33:18 PM

Jon and the others would like to forget the facts and one of them *IS* that Lieberman was chosen as the last VP candidate the Dems ran. There is no way around that.

Has Lieberman really changed that much in the last few years? Hardly!

"It's just a jump to the left...."

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jul 9, 2006 3:03:06 PM

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