Steam Behind Lamont’s Win
Ohdave/Candide’s Notebooks, August 8, 2006
The Republicans have done this for years: you follow the party line, or we will run someone against you in the primary who will. Their party discipline and ability to stay “on message” has given them a tremendous tactical advantage over the years. It is why even nominally pro-choice Republicans still manage to support people like Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Only when a given vote is safe do the “blue state” Republicans stray from the reservation. One of my own senators, George Voinovich (R-Ohio), declares himself a deficit hawk, but when he threatens to vote down any of the GOP’s beloved tax cuts he finds himself being shown the plank off of which he will be invited to walk: he invariably folds. Most recently he stood up to his president’s foreign policy by voting against John Bolton’s nomination: funny thing, he then once again changed his mind. So much for Ohio ’s man of principle.
Democrats have never been ones to enforce party discipline. If the Republicans run a pirate ship, the Democrats set sail on a hundred different boats, each trying to outrace the other into the open water.
But something happened during the social security debate. The Dems actually lined their boats up in a row and blockaded the President’s hare-brained privatization scheme. Even in the minority, they were able to stop bad legislation by depriving it of the much needed beard of bipartisanship. Why, people wondered out loud on the blogs, couldn’t the Democrats do the same thing on a whole range of issues including the most pressing issue of our day, the Iraq war?
That’s where Joe Lieberman came in. Over and over again, Lieberman broke the Democrats’ ranks. It may not always have been in terms of votes: his infamous line about criticizing the president at our nation’s peril was a rhetorical torpedo shot right at his fellow Democrats as they tried to take on the mismanagement of the war. A lot of people on the left had had enough, and when Ned Lamont came calling, he found blogs and grass roots ready to go to war on his behalf.
What’s interesting about this mutiny against Joe—who’s been more an anchor than an admiral—is that it came from the bottom up. Unlike the Republicans, whose party leaders enforce unity, the demand for unity in the Democrats’ case came from the party’s rank and file while Bill Clinton campaigned for Lieberman, and Chuck Schumer, the New York senator and Democrat, maddeningly refused to state whether he would support Lamont if he won. Rather than assail Lieberman for his betrayals of the party, they supported his incumbency as if it were a right of primogeniture. Maybe a Lamont win signals to the Democrats that if Schumer, Emmanuel, and Dean can’t enforce some adherence to core party values, then by God voters will.
Meanwhile, a lot of noise has been made of Cokie Roberts’ claim last Sunday that a Lamont win would move the Democrats to the left. The blogs attacked her claim. But it is indisputably true. The real issue is whether that would be a bad thing for the party and for the country... Cokie says it would, and I say no. The Republican party has been moving steadily to the right for the last 20 years, moving the center and the left along with it. A change of course is long overdue. Full speed ahead.