Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sensationalism surrounding Lieberman Loss

It has been nine days since 52% of the Democratic primary voters in the Constitution State ignored the advice of this blogger and chose Ned Lamont, not three-term Democratic incumbent Joe Lieberman, as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. The main issue in the revolt, as reported elsewhere, is Sen. Lieberman's unwavering support for the Iraq War. Response to Lieberman's primary defeat by right-wingers who toe the Karl Rove line was unanimous and quite swift. The Wall Street Journal claimed that Lamont's primary win foretold of a "new" Democratic party dominated by the liberal elite instead of the working class, based on the primary results that Lamont carried areas of Connecitcut won by Richard Nixon in 1960, whereas Lieberman carried areas of the state won by John F. Kennedy that year. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas wrote that Lieberman was befallen by "Taliban Democrats" who had started a political jihad against those who failed to conform to their world view. Ken Mehlman, George Bush, and Dick Cheney also joined in the act.

While I do not defend the defeat of Lieberman, as you can tell from my previous blog posting on this topic, I must say I am appaled by this reporting, which is nothing short of sensationalistic, for two reasons. First, any college student who has successfuly passed Political Science 101 can tell you that the people who turn out for primary elections are the hard-core true believers. The pragmatic centrists or even party insiders do not have much of a voice when it comes to primary elections. Primaries are about placating the hard-core left or right wingers, and that makes them a lousy time to be a centrist. As the true believers become even more hard-core due to the country's polarization, you can expect more centrists to be dusted in primary elections.

Case in point, and this leads me to my second point, in Michigan's 7th Congressional District, Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz was ousted by primary voters on the same day as Lieberman. Schwarz is a moderate Republican who was targeted for defeat by the ultra-Conservative "Club for Growth." The "Club" largerly built and funded Mr. Schwarz' opponent, who basically spent the entire campaign insisting that Congressman Schwarz, a long-time State Senator, was not conservative enough.

To extend Mr. Cal Thomas' metaphor, you might call the Club for Growth the "Taliban Republicans" who have issued a jihad against moderates. In fact, since the "Club" was founded in 1999, its stated goal has been to go "RINO" hunting, with RINO standing for Republican in Name Only. To my knowledge, the Democratic Party has no permanent organization within it dedicated to taking down moderates that is comparable to the "Club for Growth."

Which makes it hypocritical in the extreme for Bush, Cheney, Mehlman, Thomas, the WSJ, and all other Republicans, to be harping on Lieberman's primary loss. But of course a little hypocrisy has never stopped Republicans from following Karl Rove's playbook in the past, so it is sadly unsurprising that it didn't stop them this time, either.

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