Lieberman in Exile
Look, it’s over. Lieberman lost his chance at re-election to the US Senate last night, and come November, he’s going to lose again. The difference is that he will lose in November for entirely separate reasons than the ones which caused him to lose last night. Last night, he lost because of his support for an unpopular war, and the general feeling that he’s out of touch with his constituency in Connecticut. In November, he’s going to lose because he lost last night. He lost fair and square, so his assertion that he gets to have a mulligan isn’t going to fly. And shouldn’t.
Republicans and conservatives are weeping crocodile tears for Lieberman, tut-tutting as they do that this shows that the Democrats can’t handle a diversity of opinions or whatever. This is rich coming the GOP, of course, which has spent decades marginalizing its own moderates and (god forbid) liberals, and who in any event have an interest in Lieberman only to the extent that he can be used a strategic cudgel to bash at the Democrats. Anyone who is sane will recognize conservative hand-wringing over the fate of Lieberman as artfully-composed insincerity; conservatives view Lieberman as a handy Quisling, second cousin in his rhetorical usefulness to the occasional black Republican representative.
Lieberman is now betting on the Republican and independent vote in his home state to help him get back in the senatorial saddle, but I’m fairly skeptical as to whether he’ll get that support. To begin, as far as I recall, the GOP does have its own candidate in Connecticut, and while there is some political fun to be had in propping up Lieberman, the GOP’s goal will be to try to get Lamont and Lieberman to split their pool of votes and let the GOP candidate slip down the middle. The Senate is too closely divided for the GOP to throw any real support behind a conservative Democrat; Lieberman is once again only a handy tool. Connecticut Republicans may individually decide to vote for Lieberman, of course, but why would they? In his not-concession speech last night, Lieberman said “For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand.” He’s not a Republican, even if he is occasionally useful to them.
Who knows how independents will vote. That’s why they’re independents. But I am an independent, and I’m here to tell you that Lieberman’s strategy sticks in my craw. He’s an independent through convenience only, jumping to that status when the system he benefited from for two decades didn’t give him the results he thought he deserved. Personally I would love it if there were more independent political candidates; I pretty much despise the idea of political parties on principle. But if you’re going to be independent, then be independent — don’t be independent when it’s useful to you and then go back to being a party member when it comes time to get your committee assignments, as Lieberman has already made clear he would. As an independent, I say: Screw you, you insincere schmuck.
And as for the Democrats, well. Lieberman’s already baldly stated that the Democratic voters of his state couldn’t have possibly meant not to vote for him, which is why he’s graciously going to give them a chance to vote for him again in November. I sincerely doubt, had Lieberman won last night, that he would have been sanguine about Lamont turning around and declaring himself an “independent Democrat,” so in addition to being a loser, Lieberman’s also a hypocrite, and evidently of the opinion that his incumbency is more important than the processes of the democratic (small d) system. If the Democrats have any brains at all, they will quickly and loudly support Lamont as the legitimate and only Democratic candidate, and politely but firmly work to minimize Lieberman’s support among core Democrats. Whether they do this is another matter entirely, as I’ve said before, I’ve always been impressed by the ability of the Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
But I think ultimately Lieberman’s defeat, when it comes, will fall on Lieberman’s shoulders alone. He’s repudiating his party, and morgaging his reputation as an honorable man, for an election he should not be contesting in. He’s going to lose, and I suspect he’s going to lose big, regardless of the final vote percentages. He ought to accept his loss. It’s a shame he won’t.