Naturally, conservative commentators have had much to say about Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s defeat in Tuesday’s primary at the hands of Ned Lamont, whose only qualifications for higher office are these: 1) He’s got the bucks to run, thanks to his millionaire status and blue (in more ways than one) blood; 2) The “net-rooters” at Moveon.org and other lefty, Lieberman- (and Bush-)bashing websites just love him ‘cuz he, unlike Lieberman, doesn’t support the Iraq war, which for the liberal elite has become this year’s single issue.
But it’s a real surprise, and a pleasant one, to read this article by Slate editor Jacob Weisberg. Weisberg, like most staffers at the predictably liberal Slate is anti-war and anti-Bush himself–but he views the Lamont victory as another step in the Democratic Party’s suicide-march toward feckless irrelevance and eventual electoral rejection:
The problem for the Democrats is that the anti-Lieberman insurgents go far beyond simply opposing Bush’s faulty rationale for the war, his dishonest argumentation for it, and his incompetent execution of it. Many of them appear not to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously. They see Iraq purely as a symptom of a cynical and politicized right-wing response to Sept. 11, as opposed to a tragic misstep in a bigger conflict. Substantively, this view indicates a fundamental misapprehension of the problem of terrorism. Politically, it points the way to perpetual Democratic defeat.
Weisberg compares Tuesday’s rout to the Democrats disastrous refusal during the late 1960s and early 1970s to view the Vietnam War, as anything other than an act of evil American agression, when, for all the policy mistakes that might have accompanied it, a serious skirmish in a very serious Cold War fought by a Soviet Union with a lot more on its collective mind than flower power. The New Left and hippie wings of the Democrats forced the Democratic Party into repudiation of its Lieberman-like Cold Warriors such as Lyndon B. Johnson, paving the way for the victory of Republicans who took the Cold War seriously–and one sign of that, as Weisberg points out, was the election of the Republican Lowell Weicker as senator in 1970:
But as in 1970, the real significance of the Connecticut race was what it says about the party nationally, and what it portends for the next presidential election. In 1972, the Democrats repudiated their flawed Cold Warriors and chose as their standard-bearer a naive and honorable anti-war idealist. It was not George McGovern’s opposition to Vietnam but his larger tendency toward isolationism and his ambivalence about the use of American power in general that helped him lose 49 states to Richard Nixon. In a similar way, the 2006 Connecticut primary points to the growing influence within the party of leftists unmoved by the fight against global jihad. Nixon had the gift of hippie demonstrators and fellow-traveling bluebloods like Ned’s great uncle Corliss Lamont as antagonists. Today’s Republicans face an anti-war movement with a different tone and style, including an electronic counterculture of enraged bloggers and callow entrepreneurs like Ned himself. Yet the underlying political dynamic is not altogether different.
Yes, and the consequences of that dynamic weren’t just Richard Nixon. They were Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Republican control of both houses of Congress. As another congressional election looms in a few months and a presidential election in 2008, no wonder Weisberg fears for the future of his party as it continues to align itself with its most extreme and un-serious element.