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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lamont Over Lieberman: A Harbinger of a New NeoProg Era?

(Substantially cross-posted from VichyDems)


Lamont won, and Lieberman -- unlike in 2000 -- displays something resembling a cartilaginous proto-spine and vows to fight on as an independent. Lots of analysis on the net (most of it insightful) and on the mainstream news (most of it completely misunderstanding the real point). I won't waste time rehashing what Atrios, Kos, HuffPo, and a host of others already are saying well, but as an early leader in the effort to identify and oust Vichys -- "starting with Joe Lieberman, of course" -- I'm proud, and have some short points to add:

1. THIS WASN'T ABOUT IRAQ. Well, in part it was, but other Democrats, even now, support the war, and while there's some opposition to them, they haven't sunk to the bottom like Lieberman has. It's about Iraq, but also about Iran, the bankruptcy bill, his unflagging support for Israel drunk or sober, etc. He actually has a decent voting record -- something like 90% of the time voting with the Dems, according to Jon Alter -- but that 10% has been on the most important issues. It does no good to be a good Democrat on some appropriations rider giving pork to a blue state but side with the Republicans on preemptive war. And a lot of us still remember he's the one who covered his ass by running simultaneously for VP and for his old Senate seat in 2000, and reportedly persuaded Gore to cave in early on the recount. So this isn't about Iraq; it's about Lieberman.

2. THIS WAS A VICTORY FOR IDEOLOGICAL, PARTISAN POLITICS -- NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. On the Today show, Lieberman just said that Lamont stood for the "old politics" of partisan division. Well, damn straight!

Look, there are fascists and there are free French, and the fascists are wrong and the free French are right, and the Vichy -- pretending to be the mediators bridging the two -- are nothing but accommodationists without vision or values. I want an America that embraces two parties, each rooted in intellectually honest and fact-based ideologies and values, often in opposition but both committed to the success of our nation, playing by the same fair rules and respectful of the other. And I want each of those parties to play hard, because it's in that isometric tension that America finds its way through hard times. When one party is dominant, the other should act as a brake and a reality check: the two-party system as an unintended part of the "checks and balances" system. That's a major part of what I've labeled "neoProgressivism": an honest, but vigorously argued, political system rather than a tepid, accommodationist one.

The problem with Lieberman and the DLC/DSCC/DCCC crowds are that they are trying to stand in the middle of the tug-of-war and negotiate a compromise, when their role is to stand on one side and haul like hell, trusting that only by doing so will the other side be counterbalanced and something like "neutrality" or "balance" be achieved. Imagine what would happen if, in the middle of a tug-of-war contest, 1/3 of the people on one side suddenly let go and said they were tired of partisanship. The rest of their team would be face-down in the mud, and the quitters would stand there clean as whistles, sweat-free, saying, "see where conflict gets you?" No: that's where dodging the hard work gets you. Lieberman let go of the rope; Lamont grabbed the rope; the rest of the team appreciates Lamont for doing so. Simple as that.

2.5 THE HALF-JOKING, HALF-SERIOUS RELIGIOUS ANALYSIS, SUPPLEMENTAL TO NO. 2 ABOVE: LIEBERMAN LOST PRECISELY BECAUSE GOD DOESN'T LIKE BUCKETS OF LUKEWARM SPIT. Revelations 3:15-16: "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Lieberman is neither hot nor cold, and he was spewed out of Connecticut's maw. Good for Connecticut. Lesson: even God wants people to pick a side -- hot or cold -- and stick with it, 'cause lukewarm spit just sucks. Other "centrist" politicians, take note: God's mad at you.

3. LIEBERMAN'S INDEPENDENT BID IS JUST A SETUP FOR HIS FUTURE JOB AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. He doesn't have a chance in hell of actually winning election as an independent unless the Rs rig the election against their own guy, which I doubt will happen. Lots of R money Joe's way? Sure, but only enough to help him split the D vote -- just as Rs donated heavily to Nader, not so he'd win but so that Bush would. So why's he acting all sanctimonious about his "independence"? Just as he did when he dissed Clinton's morality over a minor sexual peccadillo that wasn't 1/100th as bad as what King David did with Bathsheba and Uriah, he's portraying himself as the righteous man for political gain (and to stroke his own ego). He lost, but he can claim he lost in the name of noble bipartisanship. And it will help his career: unlike Zell Miller, he's not interested in a one-shot speech at the R convention and some book sales; he's trying to establish nonpartisan credentials so he can (a) ideally, take Don Rumsfeld's job as S.O.D. (he recently gave an interview in which he very guardedly criticized Rumsfeld but said "it's the President's decision" whether to replace him, hint hint); or, if that doesn't pan out, (b) he can work both sides of the aisle as possibly the highest-paid lobbyist (whether by that title or not) in history.

4. IF WE KEEP WORKING, THIS CAN BE DAY ONE OF THE NEOPROGRESSIVE ERA: Pundits are saying that the "liberal bloggers" will cost Democrats elections by driving the party to the left. Stop, think: what Congressional election have we won since the centrists took power in 1992? None. Zippo. Not one. All the DLC ever did was get Clinton elected -- but he's tremendously charismatic, would have won anyway against the lukewarm Bush 41, and in hindsight Clinton did a lot of harm (e.g., passing NAFTA without environmental or labor safeguards). I'll write more on this later, but the evidence is that when Democrats act relatively progressive rather than accommodationist, they win more. Everyone predicts this new direction for the party -- the netroots-driven, ideologically purer, more combative direction -- will lead to disaster. The liberal Republicans in 1964 said the same thing about the neocons who tried to reclaim that party for conservatives. I pray we never become as extreme as the neocons did, but you have to admit: the centrist Republicans of the 1960s were wrong, the "purists" in their party did succeed in taking control, they've succeeded in taking control of all three branches of government -- and, crazy as it sounds, are talking seriously about securing a "permanent majority" (in Rove's words). That's a pretty good forty-year run; not even the Raiders have managed to put together a streak lasting that long.

Now it's our turn. Kris Kristofferson wrote a great song saying, "I ain't sayin' I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothing, and then I stole his song." Democrats are going to steal the Republicans' songs in terms of political stratagy by moving left and actually standing for something for a change, and then they (unlike the more extreme Republicans) will -- unlike the DLCites like Lieberman and both Clintons -- hopefully are going to use our power for good, to fight to re-establish an America that works better for Main Street than Wall Street, that balances its budgets and spends its money on its own people instead of on transnational corporations and that combats terrorism by building schools and medical clinics in the Middle East the way Hamas and Hizbullah have (earning people's support) instead of just forts and embassies (which generate enmity and have never worked, ever since the Crusader States fell to the Muslims a thousand years ago).

This is a big deal. It's a good sign for the upcoming midterms, it's a wake-up call for the seven Dems in the Gang of 14, Landrieu, Feinstein, Ben Nelson and all the other lukewarmers, and more broadly, the start of a new era, not a liberal one but a neoprogressive, fairer one. I'm happy and, for all you who've supported this effort, proud. (And a little proud of myself, too: what was the first site to label this loser as "Lieberman, Joseph (V-CT)"? VichyDems! So let's avoid calling him an "I" and be sure everyone labels him a "V".)

5. KEEP GIVING MONEY TO LAMONT! He'll still need it, all the way up to the general election. I just received my first AdSense check from Google (after half a year!): $100.41. It's mostly going to Lamont (with a little to Menendez, a good first-year Dem from New Jersey who's going to have a tough time in the general election). Please do the same; you can donate here.

I'll be fully back in the saddle soon, taking aim not at the general election but at retooling the Democratic political apparatus and fighting to reestablish a political system that is both fair (no rigged electronic voting, reformed campaign finance laws, zero voter tolerance for "Swiftboating" AND vigorously diverse. And all of that before the 2008 Congressional and Presidential primaries! As far as I'm concerned, 2006 is now over. Happy New Year. Let's go to work on 2008.

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