Saturday, May 20, 2006

Inflection point

(Updated below)

I realized that Ned Lamont's strong showing in Conn. is cause for celebration. But Matt @MyDD has thought through the next few moves on the chess board, and I now think this may be the turning point in our battle to wake up the Democratic party.
We might have just pushed Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party and put a whole lot of DC Democrats in awkward positions. If Joe becomes an independent, we will also have changed the netroots narrative and destroyed the Sista Souljah path to power so common in the Democratic Party since 1992.

First, I think Lieberman is going to jump out of the Democratic Party (Colin McEnroe thinks it's more likely now as well). Joe's weak among liberals and he doesn't have the numbers to win in the primary. If you look at the town delegates that voted for Lieberman, you'll see they were in the big urban centers where city machines are strongest. There was a credentials fight where the mayor of Hartford refused to seat Lamont-friendly delegates (though the conflict was related to the gubernatorial race and the Lamont piece was incidental). In the areas with no patronage - the small towns - Ned cleaned up. This is very very bad for Lieberman, since it means that the convention dramatically overstated his strength.
My guess is that the national party committees are nervously watching Connecticut now. Howard Dean is on the record saying that the DNC will support the eventual nominee. Lieberman committed to running as a Democrat to Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, but he won't go on the record about it. I have no doubt Lieberman will break this pledge, but that doesn't mean his party support will dry up. Schumer thinks that the DSCC's job is to support incumbents, and it's not clear that he means Democratic incumbents.

My guess is that the DSCC sticks with Lieberman, even if Lieberman jumps to become an independent. That's just a guess. They never thought they'd have to be involved here, and may be stuck in a bind. They also are probably underestimating the amount of blowback from backing an independent Lieberman against a Democratic Lamont, since they don't really believe that we're real. The DNC will not go with Lieberman if he jumps. It may stay neutral, or it may come in for Lamont. This is going to set up an interesting fight should Lieberman look at the numbers and decide that he's better off in a general than a primary.
My gut says this is a classic "You can't fire me, I quit" moment. A contested primary is Lieberman's worst case scenario -- his Republican base is fenced out, and the netroots is going to be relentless in its pursuit of a Joementum trophy to hang on the wall. He's never been much of a "for the good of the party" guy. And he is probably so vain and deluded that he will transmogrify his self-interest into a patriotic duty to stay in the Senate. So I'm guessing that he will now bolt the party.

And that decision puts Schumer and Hillary and in an industrial-strength pickle. Their instinct will be to back an independent Lieberman -- incumbents will try to protect their own. But I don't see how they can. Party unity, party loyalty and all chance of harnessing labor, netroots and anybody else who actually cares about turning out the Republicans will evaporate if they back Lieberman. So if Lieberman goes independent, I'm guessing (contra Stoller) that the party will have to back Lamont, as much as it will pain them to do so.

(An interesting side question is how the Republicans will react. If Joe crosses the aisle and runs as a Republican, I can see the party throwing lots of money to support Dubya's favorite former Democrat. But Connecticut is a blue state -- only 11 states give Bush a worse approval rating -- so I have no idea how good his chances would be. And if Leiberman runs independent, what the hell will the Republicans do?)

Anyway, the moment that Holy Joe and the Democratic leadership part ways will mark the changing of the guard. From the beginning, Lamont's candidacy has been a finger jabbed in the eye of a leadership terrified of clarity and passion. His triumph is their failure.

There are other important assaults on the Milquetoast Machine -- the CA-11 House race in California could furnish an important poke in the eye to Rahm Emmanuel and the Neville Chamberlain wing of the party as well. But overthrowing Lieberman will be the shot heard 'round the world.

Go, Ned.

Update: Lady Jane concurs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

CT says what it means, and does what it says. This attribute flies in the face of today's sleaxy national politics. But, exactly what have Schumer (D-NY) and the Hildebeast (D-NY) got to say about another state's politics? And Rham Emmanuel! Who gave them any importance to comment?

Lieberman is over. Slippery in name only politicians, like Lieberman, should be worried on a national level.

It is the shot heard round the country.

A CT Voter

6:16 AM  
Blogger Dr. Bloor said...

I hope (both of) you are right, but I suspect the collapse of the Chamberlain wing will be more gradual than the fall of a house of cards. If Ned takes the primary--and that's a very big if--he'd damn well better take the general election, Joe or no, or the Al Froms of the party will quickly frame this as a one-off driven by a bunch of angry fringe dwellers who can't win elections.

And this is still plainly Joe's to lose. He's got a ton of money to spend, and, as he predicted, he will readily spend it to save his own ass rather than spread it around to the rest of the party's candidates. I wouldn't expect the out-of-state interlopers to go away anytime soon, either. Unfortunately, the Chucks and Hillarys are so entrenched in their home states they aren't putting anything at risk by backing Loserman. Hell, Joe looks like a flaming lib next to Chuck's other fair-haired boy, Bob "Alito will make a fine supreme court justice" Casey.

7:07 AM  

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