Charles Richardson writes:

In breaking news
this morning, results from the Democrat Senate primary in Connecticut
are running narrowly against incumbent Joe Lieberman. With 57% of
precincts counted on a high turnout, challenger Ned Lamont leads by
6,600 votes, 52.2% to Lieberman’s 47.8%.

Lieberman was the
Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate in 2000, when Al Gore was denied
the victory in controversial circumstances. He was the first Jewish
candidate to represent a major party. Like other gimmicky
vice-presidential selections (a woman in 1984, a Texas conservative in
1988), it didn’t seem to help much.

Lieberman has always been on
the conservative wing of the Democratic party, but in the last year or
so he has shifted further to the right, becoming easily the most
outspoken Democrat supporter of the Iraq war. As late as a month ago polls still showed him well ahead, but Lamont has been boosted by grassroots activists fed up with their leadership’s timidity.

The
division within the party is not really on what to say about the war,
but how loudly to say it. Lieberman is one of only a small minority who
support the Bush administration’s line; all but six Democrat senators
voted for a motion in June to set a deadline for the withdrawal of
American troops. But, like their ALP counterparts in Australia,
Democrat leaders have mostly been scared of running hard on the war
issue for fear of being seen as unpatriotic. Now their hand could be
forced.

Incumbents are notoriously hard to beat in America, and
if a former vice-presidential candidate goes down, it will be a major
sign of discontent with the country’s middle east policy.

Another
thing that will have hurt Lieberman is the fact the he had announced
contingency plans to run as an independent if he loses the primary,
thereby potentially splitting the vote and handing a Senate seat to the
Republicans. As The New York Timessaid at the time,
the national party leadership “may have to choose between Mr. Lieberman
and an antiwar Democrat in the fall, when they had hoped to make Iraq
squarely the president’s problem.” But the fact they could have hoped
to do that while endorsing a Senator who stood firmly behind the
president just shows how far removed from reality they are.

Peter Fray

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