August 11, 2006


Triumph Of The New Moral Center

By Robert L. Borosage

Ned Lamont’s stunning upset of incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary race on Tuesday sends shock waves through the dead sea of American politics. 

Lamont did the impossible—this virtual unknown beat in his own party’s primary an 18-year incumbent with universal name recognition, a $12 million campaign war chest and the support of Washington insiders, the punditry and the corporate lobbies.

His victory represents a growing voter revolt against the failed policies and politics of the Bush administration and its congressional enablers, particularly the debacle in Iraq. Until a few weeks ago, Lieberman prided himself on being the president’s leading Democratic ally in touting the war. After his defeat, Democrats will show more backbone in challenging the current disastrous course and more Republicans will look for ways to distance themselves from the president.

Lamont’s victory was propelled by a rising tide of progressive energy—activists who are tired of losing elections to the right and disgusted with cautious politicians who duck and cover rather than stand and fight. Until a few weeks ago, Lieberman exemplified those Democrats who establish their “independence” by pushing off the causes of their own party and embracing the right’s agenda. His voters didn’t abandon him; he abandoned them long ago. After his defeat, incumbents in both parties may begin to listen more closely to their voters and less avidly to their donors.

Lamont’s victory was fueled by a new generation coming into politics with a passion—and organizing over the Web. Over the past year, the Washington establishment has scorned them as extreme and mocked them for failing to win anything. After Tuesday, there will be no more “bring em on” challenges issued to the bloggers.

Most important, Lamont represents a new moral center in American politics – a challenge to the failed status quo and a demand for a new direction that a growing majority of Americans are searching for. Bring an end to the disastrous occupation in Iraq and bring the troops home with honor. Change priorities to invest in our schools, in universal pre-kindergarten, in modern infrastructure. Champion affordable national health care for all. These are not issues from the “edges of our politics,” as Lieberman suggests, but ideas whose time has come.

Lieberman, in a classic sore-loser posture, refuses to accept the verdict of the voters. The man who spent the last weeks of his campaign boasting that he was a good Democrat now announces he’ll form his own party and denounces partisan politics. The man who last week said he had gotten the message and would go to Washington to challenge the president’s policies now says he’ll go to Washington to make common cause with Republicans to “get things done.”

But his brand of “getting things done” is exactly what Americans are turning against.

He joined with the president in championing the war in Iraq—got that done.

He joined with Republicans and corporate lobbies in passing corporate trade deals that have destroyed American manufacturing and undermined wages in America—got that done.

He joined with conservatives in championing the privatization of Social Security—at least he was blocked there.

He joined with CEOs in defending off the books, stock options that gave CEOs a multimillion-dollar personal incentive to cook the books and raid pension funds—got that done.

He doesn’t get it. The problem isn’t that things aren’t getting done—the problem is that the things he was helped to produce are weakening this country abroad and undermining workers and middle-class families at home.

Lieberman’s sore loser campaign will be well financed by the corporate lobbies he has served. Since he has no new ideas to offer, he’ll run a nasty negative campaign of personal vilification against Lamont, trying to smear him before voters have a chance to hear what Lamont has to say.

And that race will be a test for every Democratic leader. Will they come to support Lamont and the new energy, the new ideas, the new moral center that he represents? Or will they offer nominal support but stay away, refusing to challenge Lieberman’s low-road campaign? Their reactions will be a true measure of who is ready to fight for a new direction for this country and who is not.

Robert L. Borosage is co-director of the Campaign For America’s Future. Reprinted from TomPaine.commonsense.

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