House of Lords

When did being a U.S. Senator become an entitlement? I thought senators served at the pleasure of voters. But somebody must’ve changed the rules while I was napping.

Today the Cabbage writes (behind the firewall; see also Raw Story) about Ned Lamont’s challenge of Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat:

This isn’t a fight between left and right. It’s a fight about how politics should be conducted. On the one hand are the true believers — the fundamentalists of both parties who believe that politics should be about party discipline, passion, purity, orthodoxy and clear choices. On the other side are the quasi-independents — the heterodox politicians who distrust ideological purity, who rebel against movement groupthink, who believe in bipartisanship both as a matter of principle and as a practical necessity. …

… What’s happening to Lieberman can only be described as a liberal inquisition. Whether you agree with him or not, he is transparently the most kind-hearted and well-intentioned of men. But over the past few years he has been subjected to a vituperation campaign that only experts in moral manias and mob psychology are really fit to explain. I can’t reproduce the typical assaults that have been directed at him over the Internet, because they are so laced with profanity and ugliness, but they are ginned up by ideological masseurs who salve their followers’ psychic wounds by arousing their rage at objects of mutual hate.

Those last couple of sentences could describe what’s written on the Internets about anybody in American politics. But I skipped over the part of Brooks’s rant that compares netroots activists to fascists —

In the 1930’s, the Spanish Civil War served as a precursor to the global conflict that was World War II. And in a smaller fashion, the primary battle playing out on the smiling lawns of upscale Connecticut serves as a preview for the national conflict that will dominate American politics for the next two years.

Seems to me that there’s plenty of mob psychology on Lieberman’s side. For all the hysteria you’d think this was the first time an incumbent Senator faced a primary challenge.

Jonathan Chait is on a similar tear:

… if Lieberman’s allies are irritating and often wrongheaded, alas, his enemies are worse. Lieberman recently declared, “I have loyalties that are greater than those to my party.” Markos Moulitsas, the lefty blogger from Daily Kos who has appeared in a Lamont commercial and has made Lieberman’s defeat a personal crusade, posted this quote on his website in the obvious belief that it’s self-evidently absurd. But shouldn’t we all have greater loyalties than the one to our party — say, to our country? Partisanship isn’t nothing, but must it be everything?

Is he saying that opposition to Lieberman is unpatriotic? Weird.

Their technique of victory-via-purge is on display in Connecticut. Although Lamont decided on his own to run, the left bloggers made his campaign their central cause. One result is that Lieberman has announced his intention to run an independent candidacy should he lose the primary. Moulitsas and other Lamont supporters are filled with outrage that Lieberman has opened up the possibility of splitting the liberal vote and letting a Republican win.

Well, OK, some anger is appropriate here. But doesn’t this suggest that the whole Lamont crusade has sort of backfired?

If Lieberman loses the primary and runs as an independent, then splitting the vote to let a Republican win — a likely outcome — is not the fault of Ned Lamont and his supporters unless you assume Lieberman is entitled to his Senate seat, and that there’s something wrong with another Democrat challenging him for it. Why isn’t it the case that if a challenger wins a primary against an incumbent, that must’ve meant the voters wanted a change? For whatever reason?

And surely Lieberman realizes that if he runs as an independent he will likely be handing the seat to a Republican. What does it say about him that he’d rather the seat goes to a Republican than to a rival from his own party? And doesn’t this prove that Lieberman is a liability to the party?

The whole anti-Lieberman blog campaign has a self-fulfilling quality: They charge that Lieberman isn’t a Democrat, they drive him from the party, and they declare themselves to be correct. The more ex-Democrats they create, the more sure of their own virtue they become.

First Chait says that Kos et al. are too partisan; next they’re not partisan enough. Weird.

I keep hearing is that activists are applying an Iraq War “litmus test” to Lieberman. Or that Lieberman should be admired and supported for taking a “principled stand” on Iraq. In reverse order:

Lieberman’s stand on Iraq may indeed be “principled,” in that he sincerely thinks the invasion was the right thing to do. But if the voters disagree with that position, why should Lieberman be rewarded for holding on to it? Politicians can hold all kinds of positions for principled reasons, but if those positions are way different from my equally principled positions, I’m not going to vote for those politicians, am I?

And anyway, it’s not about the war.

Let’s go to Cenk Uygur for a reality check:

I am constantly amazed by how uninformed people are when their job is to inform others. Every press article or editorialI have been a centrist all my life and I was a Republican until five years ago. Lieberman doesn’t offend my non-existent leftist ideology. So why would a centrist be so angry with a senator who claims to be a centrist and tries to find common ground between the two parties? Because the Republicans today are so far to the right that going over to their side is abandoning centrists in favor of siding with right wing zealots.

He knows. Lieberman knows that these are the same guys who have been unabashedly using 9/11 as a political tool. He knows these are the same guys who linked Iraq and 9/11 when there was absolutely no connection. He knows they campaign against gays, immigrants and anyone else they can focus people’s hatred on. He knows they have devolved into a party of misinformation, propaganda, ill-conceived wars and religious zealotry — and he still loves them.

He doesn’t just vote with Republicans, he relishes it. He talks like them, he walks like them, he is them. It’s not the Iraq War vote people care about nearly as much as when he said, “It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be commander-in-chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.”

That’s going out of your way to support not just their ideology and their war, but to support their demagoguery. It’s ugly and it reeks. We get plenty enough of that from Republicans, we don’t need any of that from so-called Democrats.

I’ve seen on the Lieberman issue completely misses the point. We are not against Joe Lieberman because we are leftists who require ideological purity. We are against him because he aids and abets an out of control Republican Party.

What’s sad about Jonathan Chait’s op ed is that Chait almost gets it. He writes:

A good window into the competing mentalities can be found in two arguments, one by prominent Lieberman supporters, the other by a prominent critic. First, the supporters. Writing in the Hartford Courant, Marshall Wittmann and Steven J. Nider of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council complain that “far too many Democrats view George W. Bush as a greater threat to the nation than Osama bin Laden.”

Those loony Democrats! But wait, is this really such a crazy view? Even though all but the loopiest Democrat would concede that Bin Laden is more evil than Bush, that doesn’t mean he’s a greater threat. Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the mountains, has no weapons of mass destruction and apparently very limited numbers of followers capable of striking at the U.S.

Bush, on the other hand, has wreaked enormous damage on the political and social fabric of the country. He has massively mismanaged a major war, with catastrophic consequences; he has strained the fabric of American democracy with his claims of nearly unchecked power and morally corrupt Gilded Age policies. It’s quite reasonable to conclude that Bush will harm the nation more — if not more than Bin Laden would like to, than more than he actually can.

This is what Lieberman and his backers don’t understand. They piously insist that “partisanship stops at the water’s edge” and that they won’t take political potshots at a Republican president when he’s waging a war in America’s name — as if Bush were obeying this principle, and as if Bush were just another Republican president rather than a threat of historic magnitude. Lieberman seems to view the alarm with which liberals regard Bush as a tawdry, illegitimate emotion.

Yes, exactly. But then Chait turns around and says the netroots activists who support Lamont are worse. So we agree that there’s a case to be made against Lieberman, yet somehow it’s wrong to challenge Lieberman’s Senate seat.

I ask again — when did being a U.S. Senator become an entitlement?

Update: See Greg Sargent.

12 thoughts on “House of Lords

  1. My guess is that Lieberman is going to be history. I think his insurance policy of running as a Independent id going to be an assurance policy of defeat. It’s an exposure of his alliegences… Himself

  2. Didn’t you see Joe in the debate?
    How DARE Lamont challenge HIM!!!
    Joe, has been the…
    Ah, I’m so sick of this crap, I could just puk…
    You get the idea…
    Get the #e!! outta here!!!

  3. I’m just checking to see if the preview function works.

    Hmm, it doesn’t seem to actually preview.

  4. The pundits, like way too many incumbent politicians and the organizations that’ve built up around them, just don’t trust the people. They don’t mix with them, they don’t understand them, they may or may not like them, but they sure as hell don’t trust them.

  5. I have a comment in 2 parts. First, Barb nailed it when she used the word ‘entitlement’. It’s not just Joe’s attitude; All of Congress feels that way and over decades both parties have rigged the electoral process to support guaranteed reelection. For info on this I refer folks to ‘Problem Definition’ :
    To cite 2 facts from that blog. Over the past 20 years, Senators have been reelected 87% of the time. Incumbents normally raise 8 times as much money as challengers, allowing them to drown out on the airwaves any facts a challenger may want to raise. So Special Interests buy the Senate regardless of party affiliation. As long as Special Interests can throw around unlimited cash to support incumbents, incumbents will support special interests at the expense of the voter – REGARDLESS OF PARTY!

    Regarding Joe. I do respect the Senator from Conn. for taking a stand unpopular with the voters and unpopular with the Dem party. If I was a voter in Conn, I would make a point of voting, but I would vote against Joe. I am a vet; I understand it’s not just a job, and it’s no adventure, either. You can get killed and there is no reset to the game. We have squandered 2500 GIs in a war that should not have been Staying in it has the same bad logic as the gambler who borrows wildly so he can return to the casino in an effort to win back what he lost already.

    As a voter, I respect Joe, but he needs time off to reconsider his priorites.

    Maha, You are right; it’s not previewing and it scared the poop out of me. 🙂

  6. Thanks for your comment, Doug Hughes., and yours too, u. liberal.

    Today’s incumbents do treat everyday citizens as secondary to corporate campaign contributors. Explore why….
    Something really stinks when national legislation and policy is written to ‘reward’ big campaign contributors. And something really stinks when incumbents can personally benefit from big campaign chests. Look more closely at some of what has emerged in the news about Republican incumbents whose family members get on a money train by inserting themselves into the campaign as ‘staffers’ or ‘consultants’, or even lobbyists or employees of the contributors. What caught my attention was that incumbents who had no need for a big war chest [because they were running way ahead or were unopposed]still were building big money pots……..for the benefit of family members and friends, I suppose. I can guess that this ‘game’ is played regardless of party by, especially the long-term incumbents.

    Democratic government itself is treated as a scam, and we must find and push the reset button to get rid of the notion of incumbent entitlement. It will not be easy…..what with the party bosses of each side doing what they can to maintain the status quo. If Joe Lieberman loses, it will mean to me that at least we found one reset button to push successfully. I do also respect Joe for his principles, but not his arrogance about the Bush meddling war in the middle east that makes fodder of our soldiers.

  7. So crony chickenhawk opportunists bump VP wannabe Lieberman off and he returns to.. aid and abet them. And the recent freeper “army” inspired by chickenhawk bloggers descend on the NYT building and Brooks.. attacks the democratic netroots?

    Who the hell are these people?

  8. There’s not a single correct thing about the Cabbage’s editorial. If Lieberman’s loyalties are to things greater than the Democratic party, good for him; people aren’t opposing him because he’s not conforming to the Democrat mold, but because he supports things that they do not support. How is this hard to understand?

    Also, isn’t Lamont’s whole raison d’etre contrary to the groupthink? I’d argue we need to move away from party politics as usual anyway (*cough* Hillary) because it’s a) not a winning strategy, and b) not effective in legislating.

  9. Aren’t many of these Republican defenders of Lieberman the same folks who coined the lovely moniker Loserman in 2000?

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