Sunday, July 23, 2006

Connecticut primary could be a dangerous omen

Early in August, a primary election will say a lot about the future of the Democratic party in the US. Senator Joseph Lieberman is facing a tough primary election against a millionaire businessman, Ned Lamont, who is running what is essentially a one issue campaign. The latest poll shows them basically even.

What is amazing about this campaign is the Lieberman still has the endorsement of a host of the usual suspect liberal Democratic groups, including Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation voters, Human Rights Campaign (yes, the most important Gay Rights lobby endorsed an Orthodox Jew who opposes same sex marriage!), and
12 different labor unions. Lieberman's record in support of those causes (with the single exception of same sex marriage) makes that support well deserved; this is not a case of lesser of two evils. In addition, a host of unquestionably liberal elected officials from Connecticut and across the US have endorsed Lieberman, not to mention former President Clinton, who will be campaigning for Lieberman tomorrow.

What is going on here?

I am worried. If Democratic primary voters across the US adopt an ideological purity attitude, the party will be condemned to minority status for a generation. The ONLY real issue in this race is that Lieberman refuses to support a fixed time for withdrawl from Iraq. You can disagree with him on that, or agree with him, but you can't argue that he hasn't been a tremendous supporter of Democratic causes for his entire political career. Even if he loses the primary, Lieberman may still run in the general election and could win as the Republicans do not have a serious challenger this year (and one incumbent Republican congressman, Chris Shays, has already said he is voting for Lieberman). But most Democrats will not have that luxury.

And a Lieberman primary loss will make it difficult for the Democrats seeking to oust the states three Republican members of the House of Representatives, all of whom are vulnerable and represent districts that voted for Kerry over Bush, as described here. The Democrats need to win seats like that if they are to take back the House of Representatives. But for some, ideological purity seems more important.

The primary is Tuesday, August 8.

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