Ideologically based primary challenges to important incumbents almost always signal major changes in the political winds. That's as true of Lamont's strong campaign against Lieberman as it was of D'Amato's victory, following as it did the primary defeats of two other liberal Republican senators -- Clifford Case of New Jersey in 1978 and Thomas Kuchel of California 10 years earlier -- at the hands of conservatives.He goes on to compare the challenge to Lieberman to a similar challenge to progressive Republican Jacob Javits 26 years ago which marked a major shift in the Republican Party.
In Connecticut, four Senate Democrats pleaded with the party's rank and file to support Lieberman in the state's Aug. 8 primary against liberal challenger Ned Lamont. One of them, Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado, was unabashed in describing Lieberman as "a hero of mine and someone who has inspired me."So what does it all mean in 2006?
On Sept. 6, 1980, a group of nine Republican senators descended on New York state to help Sen. Jacob Javits, the liberal Republican running in a primary against a conservative named Alfonse D'Amato. Among them was Sen. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, who called Javits "an example to us, our counselor, our father confessor."
The opposition to Lieberman is motivated by an effort to reverse the trend to the right. It's true that Lamont's campaign has been energized by widespread opposition to the Iraq war and the fact that Lieberman has been one of the most loyal Democratic defenders of President Bush's Middle East policies.I think he comes pretty close to nailing it. Yes Joe Lieberman and Marshall Wittmann, your idea of "centrist" is a long way from the center of today's Democratic Party and the winds are changing.
But Lieberman's troubles are, even more, about a new aggressiveness in the Democratic Party called forth by disgust with the Bush presidency -- an energy comparable to the vigor that a loathing for liberalism brought to the Republican right in the 1970s and '80s.
Like the earlier generation of conservatives, today's Democratic activists are impatient with accommodating the powers that be. They demand that Democrats stop trying to chase a "center" that has veered ever rightward since 1980. Instead, they want to haul that center back to more progressive terrain. That's why so much of the political energy in Connecticut seems to be with Lamont.
Lieberman's core problem was not even his support for the Iraq war. It was his eagerness to challenge the legitimacy of fellow Democrats who have called attention to the administration's mistakes. Lieberman, confident of Democratic support, seemed to crave the affection of Republicans most of all.
I think Dionne gets it wrong here:
A Lieberman loss next week could also create distracting problems for Democrats. Lieberman has said he would run as an independent if he lost the primary. This would divert national attention from the Democrats' central goal of making this fall's elections a referendum on Bush and the Republican Congress.Joe Lieberman is a referendum on Bush. But for the most part Dionne has a better understanding than most of the pundits. And better yet he did a commentary on Lieberman and didn't once mention bloggers.