The Straining Of The Center In Connecticut

Joe Gandelman over at the Moderate Voice gives a great breakdown of the factional wars going on in both the Democratic and Republican parties, with a special emphasis on the “progressive” wing of the Democrats and their jihad against Senator Joe Lieberman:

It was a debate watched all over the country. Political partisans from the state (and visiting the state) watched their man take on the hated incumbent with a baited breath so strong that Sea World’s Shamu’s drooled.

They were taking on the hated enemy, a man often called by some of them a “liar,” a man who stood in the way of their party’s agenda.

Ah, yes, lots of Democrats followed the debate between Senator Joe Lieberman and his Democratic challenger Ned Lamont…

When Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman met Ned Lamont in a debate that could help determine the outcome of the Democratic party, the media coverage and scrutiny underlined one fact: this was a debate — and a primary — that has gone far beyond local. Lieberman is now kind of a symbol for the right, left and center. And what has happened to him — and the political complications it reflects — is indicative of how politics has changed, how its tone has changed, and why you better not place bets in Vegas yet about the Democrats regaining power as easily as some pundits say (or assume).

Indeed: the whole, bitter battle over Joe Lieberman is symptomatic of the kind of bitter partisanship has led to the creation of Unity08 and makes the idea behind it attractive, even to those who in the end might not even be able to bring themselves to vote for a third party. To sum it up in a nutshell (which means actually oversimplifying it, but that’s OK since people can give their views in the comments section and most of political punditry these days is oversimplified):

There is clearly a movement by a segment of the Democratic party to “take back” the party. What that means is “take back” the party from the Clintonistas, who essentially tried to take back the party from McGovernite influences to a more JFK-style orientated politics where the party would try to win elections (and did) by getting a large chunk of Democratic votes, plus centrist votes and votes from Republicans who unhappy with their own party.

Some suggest this is part of a purge, and there does seem some of that. Lieberman’s present status and political plight stems from the fact that many Democratic progressives want to send a message to Democrats in Congress, party bigwigs, and to disgruntled liberal Democrats…

WHAT IT MEANS: Just as the Republican party in recent years has shrunk the size of its tent, some Democrats seek to shrink the size of theirs, too. You’d think that in 2006 — a year when it appears that with a semblance of party unity, cohesive message, and careful organization – the Democrats could take back one or more houses of Congress, what do we see? Some Democrats declaring Lieberman and his kind as the first priority political enemy. Dilemma: if Lieberman trounces them in the primary, how does he get their votes during the election? And if they beat Lieberman, how will Democrats get the votes of the so-called Reagan Democrats (which in some cases were JFK Democrats)?

WHAT IT MEANS FOR CENTRISTS: The GOP has largely edged out centrists and even, some would argue, classic Goldwater-style conservatives. Karl Rove has talked about the glories of “mobilization” elections where the GOP is less concerned about getting the center and more concerned about pushing hot button issues (gay marriage, flag burning, the pledge of allegiance, and now we see immigration) to get its partisans out to vote. Democrats have — up until NOW — not worked that way. Those who are trying to send Lieberman to spend his golden years in the Jewish Home for the Aged versus The Federal Home for the Aged (AKA Congress) are essentially taking a page from Karl Rove’s book. The attitude is “where those centrists and those moderates who are really closet Republicans go? And who really cares?”

THE FALLACY: Moderates and centrists are NOT monolithic. You can read my blog The Moderate Voice and see a slew of people who are centrists and moderates but differ on given issues…and often strongly. Polls show the same diversity among moderates, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans. You never see a 100 percent agreement in polls on anything. If you read web logs, Lieberman is nearly hated as much as George Bush by many on the left…

SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN? (a)The Democrats’ focus is perilously off and it could get worse which will make their ostensible goal in November (getting one or both houses of Congress) more elusive. (b)Polarization isn’t just Democrats versus Republicans it’s polarization within parties where those who aren’t pure enough (in both parties) are being essentially told in some cases: “You’re either with us or against us. Totally. And if not totally, get lost.” And you know what? They just might.


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