By now you’ve undoubtedly heard all about the Lamont/Lieberman senate primary in Connecticut today and all its implications about the future of the Democratic party (especially with regards to the 2008 presidential election). Politicos across the country will be glued to the TV and Internet this evening awaiting the results. At this point in the game, I’ve read so much commentary on the race that nothing really surprises me. But, Brendan Miniter makes some interesting points over at Opinion Journal this morning that are worth mentioning:
First, even if Lieberman wins, the antiwar left will be energized:
“Unless Sen. Lieberman turns in a stunningly large victory, the outcome will hardly matter. Even if he falls short at the ballot box, Mr. Lamont has already succeeded at changing the political landscape on the left. Anyone who expects to get anywhere within the Democratic Party will now have to give the antiwar wing its due. The party of George McGovern is back.”
That makes sense. Look at how conservatives in Pennsylvania were energized after Pat Toomey lost to Arlen Specter in the close 2004 senate primary. It could happen the other way, too.
Second, this is not just a Connecticut thing. There is a notable split and debate within the Democrat party between the antiwar left and the Clintionian “Third Way” Democrats closer to the center. Prominent Democrats distancing themselves from Lieberman is a good example. The senate race in Maryland is another:
“Then there’s Maryland, a state with a rich military history and a large population of active-duty and retired servicemen. In the Old Line State antiwar, antiestablishment Democrats are having a field day. In a race for an open Senate seat 18 Democrats are running for their party’s nomination. The frontrunner for nearly a year had been Rep. Ben Cardin, a loyal Democrat who has become known over nearly two decades in the House for his liberal politics and cool-headedness. In late 2002 he voted against invading Iraq, but he then voted to “support the troops” by funding the war.
“What seemed like smart politics at the time to Mr. Cardin–supporting the troops, but not their mission–may prove to be politically fatal. The 10-term congressman is facing a surprising onslaught of attacks questioning his antiwar credentials and blasting him for being a Washington insider. The attacks, both in ads and at a recent debate, have eaten away at Mr. Cardin’s poll numbers, pushing him a few points behind the only other credible candidate–former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, who has run a campaign based in part on anger over party leaders’ efforts to anoint Mr. Cardin and thereby push a black candidate out of the race.”
In an interesting twist, Miniter blames Republican emphasis on GOTV:
“Of course, this is President Bush’s fault. In the past three election cycles–in 2000, 2002 and most notably for his re-election in 2004–the president put the Republicans on top by running a get-out-the-vote campaign. In 2004 Mr. Bush even managed to win with a record turnout, proving to both political parties that getting their voters to the polls was more important than winning over supporters of the other party. By freeing the parties from hunting for votes across the aisle, Mr. Bush has inadvertently increased both the power and the stature of the most active wings of the two parties. Ironically for Mr. Bush, the net result is the rise in recent years of antiwar activists on the left and anti-illegal-immigrant activists on the right–neither of which serves his political goals.”
The result, predicts Miniter, is that the split will continue, and thus isolate any candidates who shift to the middle:
“Nonetheless in the coming years we’re likely to see more of the brand of politics practiced by the Club for Growth: political groups targeting members of their own party who stray too close to the political center. For the club that has meant funding conservative challengers to tax-hiking Republicans, such as Rhode Island’s Sen. Lincoln Chafee. For Mr. Lieberman, it means facing a credible, self-financed antiwar candidate in Mr. Lamont.”
I’m with Miniter on the first two points. Not sure what I think about the GOTV stuff. I’d be interested to see some reader comments, so send them in. Even if you disagree with him, it’s an interesting article. Read the whole thing here.