August 9, 2006

Feel the "Ned-mentum"

Almost no one saw it coming.

Six months ago, Ned Lamont's name recognition was, within the margin of error, zero. He made campaign fliers on a copy machine. In a race against a Democratic senator with a national reputation, the political novice had two main things in his favor: substantial personal wealth and a potent issue.

From Day One, the man who became Connecticut's Democratic nominee for the Senate on Tuesday stuck to a simple message: The war in Iraq was wrong and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman was wrong to continue supporting it. But while Lamont's success has been widely attributed to the rising power of the antiwar movement and liberal Internet bloggers, the 52-year-old upstart from Greenwich became a political giant-killer by blending both new- and old-style politics. He tapped the Net roots to promote his cause -- but the grass roots to win over voters.

With its strong Internet presence and gung-ho supporters, Lamont's campaign soon came to resemble Howard Dean's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination two years ago. But there are key differences. Despite the national implications of Lamont's candidacy, his campaign retained a distinctly local flavor, staffed by veteran state operatives and a homegrown volunteer corps. As the hype grew, the campaign stuck to the basics. It focused on building a file of likely voters, organizing a turnout effort and circulating Lamont at events, including small gatherings in living rooms.

"The story is really about voters in Connecticut who stood with Ned Lamont," said Tom Matzzie, political director for the antiwar organization, one of numerous outside groups that promoted Lamont's candidacy. "He went from town to town, house to house, for months. It defined grass-roots campaigning."

Well, it's a great night for those who wish to rid the government of "business as usual" Dems, most particularly Joe Lieberman, who cast votes usually along party lines, but casts himself as some noble "moderate" by supporting Republican measures which aren't anywhere near in line with the wishes or values of most Democrats.

Playing both sides of the fence and angling for being appointed Defense Secretary, as many believed Lieberman was doing, just ain't gonna work, and it certainly doesn't qualify you as being some noble "centrist" or give you the right to claim you're "rising above partisanship", blah, blah, blah.

You're either in one camp or the other. You either support the average person or you don't. You can work across the aisle, and you have to to get things done. But you can't support legislation which will hurt consumers deeply while benefiting one corporate sector on one day, cozy up to the fundimentalists another, and not only embrace Bush and support measures that further erode basic freedoms the next, then denounce your own party members for daring to oppose Bush's policies after that, and somehow hide behind the banner of being a "moderate" and claim to be giving people what they want, a move away from "divisiveness" and "partisanship".

No, Joe. That's not non-partisan cooperation. It's being divisive yourself. It's simply hard to swallow that it was all done out of some higher principle. It's playing both sides of the fence, trying to be all things to all people for your own benefit. And it just doesn't wash.

With the country confronted with such starkly different paths to follow, staying the course with the absolutely disasterous Bush policies and ineptitude, or doing things differently and more constructively with progressive Dems. There's no place for someone who supports the worst of Republican policies and then tries to claim he's doing it out of some sort of spirit of bi-partisanship. Sure, Lieberman is free to have whatever views he wishes, and the voters are, and were, free to vote him out of office because of them.

There's no rational reason for "staying the course" other than to prop up Bush politically and to protect neocon's egos from having to admit they were disasterously wrong from the beginnning. And people are dying today for this.

Seems like not too tough a choice.

Yet Joe made a huge mistake in choosing to prop up Bush and give him the illusion of bi-partisan support, and in that respect, I hope it serves notice to other candidates who may now be rethinking their stance on the war.

As Lamont says, "'Staying the Course' is no strategy in Iraq and it's just as bad here at home."

This primary has been cast as well as a test of the liberal blogopshere's ability to turn out support and campaign cash.

While it's difficult to estimate how much this could transfer to other races across the country, I certainly hope that it marks a turning point in the willingness of candidates to at least clearly support the will of the majority of people in the country and have the decency to clearly come out in opposition to the misguided and pointless "war" in Iraq as it's currently being handled, even at the risk of incurring the wrath of big corporate donors who are profiting quite handsomely from it all.

And I think that the heavily mis-characterized and maligned left wing blogosphere can rightly claim to have been a big factor in this victory, without a doubt providing enough help both in publicity and organization as well as financially to honestly claim that without their active participation, things would likely have turned out differently.

How do you see this Lamont victory/Lieberman defeat?

Lieberman and his supporters have made it a point to stress what a good Democrat he is, such a good Democrat in fact, that he made it clear weeks ago that if he didn't win the parties nomination, he'd leave the party and run as a so-called "independent".

Now that's a good Dem, isn't it? Sheesh.

What do you think of Joe's refusal to step aside and support the Dem nominee?

I should note as well that all through the campaign, Lamont has said he'd support whoever won the Dem nomination. Too bad Joe won't do the same.

It also puts Dem officials in a very awkward spot. But I believe most of the heavy-weights have already indicated that they'd support the nominee over Smokin' Joe if he bolted the party.

One more interesting note seen on Lamont's blog page. The Lamont campaign offered the services of their head tech guy to the Lieberman campaign to try to fix the problem they had with their web site. The Lieberman campaign never replied.


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