Rich Lowry writes that “The Democrats’ position on the Iraq War has been a muddle”, but that muddle “is moving toward a resolution, and the vehicle for it is next month’s Democratic Senate primary race in Connecticut” between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont:
As the poet once said, you don’t have to be a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing. You only have to be a weather-vane politician sticking his (or her) finger in the wind. John Edwards has repudiated the war and lurched left since his 2004 vice-presidential run. He leads in presidential polls in Iowa. John Kerry regrets his prior support of the war and wants a deadline, any deadline, for exiting Iraq. Even the cautious Hillary Clinton just turned her back on Lieberman by saying she would support Lamont if he wins the primary.
If Lieberman does lose, it will be a sign that Clinton herself is vulnerable to a challenge from the left in the 2008 presidential primaries. Then, she will be under enormous pressure to walk away from her support of the war, too.
The biggest winner is Howard Dean, left for dead after his infamous 2004 Iowa “scream.” Lamont is a straight Deaniac, not just in his opposition to the war, but in his demographic profile: white, well-off and highly educated. These are the same people who backed the successful peacenik insurrection of George McGovern in 1972, and now they are bidding to make their control of their party all the more complete. Democratic commentator Marshall Wittmann calls the left-wing bloggers “McGovernites with modems.”
Their main issue is the war, but they also represent a general repudiation of the one hiccup in the post-1972 McGovernite dominance of the party, the Clinton administration circa 1994-1998. Clinton was pro-growth, pro-free trade, tonally moderate and willing to use force abroad. Al Gore spurned this winning centrist formula in 2000, but he felt compelled to make a bow to it by picking the moderate Lieberman as his running mate. Now, the Democratic party is on the verge of saying a Lieberman-style hawkish-centrism is utterly anathema.
Lieberman could still win the primary. Even if he loses, he could win the general election as an independent, showing that the party’s left wing doesn’t have wider appeal. But if Lieberman is ousted from his seat, it will be a decisive victory for the party’s haters and anti-war bloggers. The Democrats’ muddle on Iraq will finally have ended, and the party will be the poorer for it.
Incidentally, there’s a curious element in Lieberman’s recent televised debate with Lamont. In The Weekly Standard, Matthew Continetti notes:
It was a typical irony of this turbulent and uncertain campaign that Lamont, the advocate of opposition, was timid and soft-spoken, while Lieberman, the advocate of compromise, was aggressive, even rude. Lieberman disobeyed the rules governing rebuttals and interrupted Lamont’s answers several times. He seemed dismissive of his opponent–“Who is Ned Lamont?” he kept asking–and irritated at the idea of a contested primary. Smarting at the interruptions, Lamont got off his best line of the debate: “This isn’t Fox News, Senator.”
“Lieberman kept interrupting and rebutting,” one of the liberal bloggers at MyDD.com wrote afterward, “but really didn’t make any effective points. He started off angry, and ended angry.” It is a testament to the new powers rising in the Democratic party and the ongoing polarization of American politics that if Lieberman had behaved toward Bush as he did toward Lamont, the kiss of death might never have happened, and his political career might be secure.
“He started off angry, and ended angry”–so the angry left is angry that Lieberman appeared too angry towards their candidate? Now that’s one ironic Mobius loop.