During his speech at the real world convention of his popular Daily Kos website in June, Markos Moulitsas swore before an enraptured audience that if "the Democratic Party and allied organizations that claim to represent us" were to "refuse to reform, if they refuse to be more accountable, if they refuse to join this people-powered movement as it seeks to move our country forward...well then, they'll be relegated to the dustbin of history."
That's tough talk the netroots backed up with a vengeance Tuesday night when political neophyte and netroots champion Ned Lamont slew national Democratic stalwart Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic senatorial primary. The victory led a euphorically hubristic Moulitsas to declare "democracy and the people of Connecticut" the evening's true winners, and surmise further, "What tonight showed is that democracy can work. That even the most powerful, entrenched forces can be dislodged by people-power."
Despite the chestbeating and endless cawing about "people-power" shaking the very underpinnings of American democracy, however, the tough talkers' defensive squeamishness over the Lieberman's now promised independent run suggests they understand that their ability to relegate anyone permanently to the dustbin of history is precarious at best.
Another Daily Kos poster scorns Lieberman's bid as "an alternative, loser's route in to office," labeling the Senator "a sore loser," "crank," and, perhaps worst of all in left-liberal eyes, "this year's Ralph Nader." Thus, having in August trumpeted the will of Connecticut voters as a virtue hitherto not fully realized, Lamont supporters are at the very least skeptical about having to hear them again in November.
It is a strangely weak attitude for a victorious group to adopt. If one accepts all the post-Lamont victory crowing at face value, it's difficult to understand why the netroots wouldn't be eager for another opportunity to administer another ignominious spanking to Sen. Lieberman before the world. Take the heroic triumphalism -- or perhaps, in deference to the victorious Lamont, socialist realism -- of this passage from Lamont Blog, for example:
If you took one look at the inaugural Lieberman Party convention in Hartford last night, it was shocking how few Democrats were in attendance. A scattering for sure, but the room mainly contained members of the press and those ubiquitous teenagers walking around in Lieberman t-shirts. Compare this to Ned Lamont's room, which was chock full of prominent national Democrats like Maxine Waters and local ones like George Jepsen, and hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers who through their hard work earned tickets to the event.
Setting aside whether hanging out with Maxine Waters earns one any bragging rights -- the image of Waters doing her best Rap Video Vixen impression at the 2004 Boston Hip-Hop Summit is still unnervingly fresh in my mind -- it seems there should be little concern over an army of Lieberman teenagers facing off against hundreds of enthusiastic Lamont volunteers again.
Likewise, Lamont Blog calls Lieberman's independent run, "quixotic and harmful." Two weeks ago, Matt Stoller noted over at MyDD, "If Lieberman is operating with an extreme top-down and paranoid leadership structure where he is calling the shots, it means that he has forgotten how to be a candidate, and that he is not letting his staff actually manage a campaign."
Again, I ask, considering all of this -- Lieberman is a bad candidate and a quixotic figure, I gather -- why would the people-powered masses not be eager to take on Lieberman again? Do these people believe their own web postings or don't they?
Other Democrats are already getting a taste of what the Lamont victory means in a larger sense. "[Sen. Chris] Dodd helped create the Lieberman monster," Moulitsas writes. "He should do whatever he can to get him out of the race."
Created the "monster" how? By supporting him in the primary? Dodd jumped on board the Lamont express within hours of Lieberman's defeat and was in front of flashbulbs and recording devices at a press conference the next morning to pledge his allegiance. Now the so-called netroots wants Dodd to atone for supporting a different Democrat in a Democratic primary?
This is the sort of megalomaniacal hubris Dean's Democracy for America and liberal blogs embrace as an article of faith: The whole American political culture is corrupt, except when their candidate wins. America's democracy is ailing and faded, except when their candidate wins. Self-funded, wealthy candidates are the bane of politics, except when they happen to be the candidate of the netroots.
To be clear, I'm in basic agreement with Tim Cavanaugh of Reason who derides Lieberman as an "infinite-state liberal." I'm not all that concerned which statist the people of Connecticut eventually send to Washington, D.C. to try to control my life. I certainly don't blame Lamont or the Democratic Party for not wanting to face Lieberman again. It's in the party's best interest to marginalize Lieberman. Were he to win as an independent he would probably be ornery towards some members of his caucus for the next six years at best and a straight-up obstructionist at worst.
I'll also give credit where credit is due: Kudos to Lamont for fighting an against-all-odds battle and coming out on top. It's an impressive feat, aided, no doubt, by Lieberman's promise to run as an independent if he were to lose and the lack of party loyalty it suggested.
Yet if Lieberman truly feels the way he swore he did last night -- "For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot, I will not let this result stand" -- then he cannot, as a matter of conscience, be beholden to the wishes of the Lamont campaign so long as there is legal recourse to challenge him again. Without a doubt, there is a question of honor here, since Lieberman understood the primary system and what his supporters expected of it upon entering the race, but it is up to the voters of Connecticut to enforce that code, if they so choose, not Lamont and the netroots.
"This is what people-power looks like, and it is changing the face of politics," Moulitsas writes. Well, fine, but one could say Lieberman running as an independent is "changing the face of politics" as well. It seems the netroots want to turn the political culture on its ear but only in ways that benefit candidates they support. In negotiations that's what they call a non-starter.
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