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Lamont's Victory and Lieberman's Insult to Democracy

Ned Lamont's crushing defeat of Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Senate primary shows that voters are hungry for change -- but Lieberman still fights for politics as usual.
 
 
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At the end of every gut-wrenching horror movie, when the hero seems finally to have vanquished the enemy, there is always that last moment where the enemy, lying lifeless on the floor, finds a last gasp to fire off one final round, usually dealing a fatal blow to one of the good guys.

In the incredible story that concluded Tuesday night in Connecticut, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Ned Lamont was the successful hero, representing the hopes and dreams of ordinary citizens by mounting a truly grassroots campaign against Joe Lieberman's massive war chest of corporate cash and universal support from Washington, D.C.'s cabal of lobbyists, pundits and insiders. Yet, in his last coughing gasps, Lieberman is now saying he will, in fact, fire off that last spiteful round -- right into the gut of the Democratic Party.

That's right -- Lieberman is announcing he will move forward with plans to abuse loopholes in Connecticut's election laws, ignore Democratic Party voters who voted in our democratic process for change, and mount a Lieberman for Lieberman Independent bid. This, from the guy who went on television after the 2004 presidential race (which was closer than the Connecticut primary) to declare that " there's no prizes for second place in American politics."

You read that right -- the senator who says there's "no prizes for second place" and who has in the final days of Democratic primary campaigning been running around claiming that he gets the message and realizes he no longer should enable George W. Bush's right-wing agenda is now saying that he will try to rely on hard-core Republican voters and moneymen in a general election contest in a desperate attempt to hold on to power.

Understand how insulting this is: Connecticut taxpayers just spent a large sum of money to hold a democratic primary election in a country founded on small-d democratic principles. An 18-year incumbent who had 100-percent name ID and a $12 million war chest (thanks to, among others, Joe's good friends in the pharmaceutical and financial services industries) was unable to win that election. Now, instead of respecting small-d democracy or the party he has spent the last week pledging his devotion to, he's behaving like a Third World autocrat who ignores democracy and running to hard-core GOP voters and fundraisers in Connecticut and begging them to help him hold on to his job in the Senate club. This undemocratic chicanery from a man who has long justified his support for the Iraq war by saying he has a supposedly heartfelt devotion to spreading democracy.

Make no mistake about it -- be prepared for Lieberman, the Enron lobbyists, corporate lawyers, Establishment pundits and other assorted characters in the Washington brothel to run out immediately and trumpet how incredible it was that Lieberman got so close, insist that Lieberman's loss was supposedly the doing of anti-Semites, and demand that every god-fearing, terrorist-hating American support Lieberman's selfish independent candidacy or the republic will not be able to go on.

What they want to do is pretend that Lieberman hasn't spent 18 years in the Senate, didn't have every single advantage, didn't outspend his opponent with a massive corporate-funded war chest, and was, instead, the courageous underdog who supposedly did not arrogantly ignore mainstream public opinion with his stands pushing the Iraq war, Social Security privatization and corporate-written trade deals that sold out American jobs.

That storyline provides a convenient excuse to justify Lieberman ignoring Connecticut voters, Connecticut taxpayers who funded the election and all the democratic principles this country is supposed to be based on. It provides a consultant-packaged excuse for Lieberman to ignore voters and insult the Democratic Party by running as a party of one and potentially throwing the general election to the Republican Party.

But as Ezra Klein astutely notes, "If this gets spun in the next few days as a microscopic margin so infinitesimal as to be mere statistical error, try and keep in mind the towering mandate the media agreed Bush had after his three -- not four -- percent win over Kerry." I'll put it in exact language that Lieberman himself can understand: It's time for Joe Lieberman and his friends in the Washington Establishment who distrust Ned Lamont and ordinary voters to acknowledge that Ned is now the Democratic Party's nominee for U.S. Senate, and that we as Democrats undermine our nominee's credibility at our party and our democracy's peril.

Lieberman's concession speech tonight spitefully announcing that he will abandon the Democratic Party that he has spent the last week transparently pledging his fealty to is classic Lieberman. You may recall that after he was crushed in the New Hampshire primary, he proudly boasted that "we are in a three-way split decision for third place" -- as if he really thought voters were stupid enough to think that was a good thing and that he was well on his way to winning the nomination. Similarly, today he is claiming that the Democratic Party primary election is just the "first half" of the election process -- again, thinking voters are so stupid they don't see that what he's really doing is giving the big middle finger to American democracy.

But voters do see what's going on -- and that's why Lieberman, an 18-year incumbent who outspent his opponent, was handed a crushing defeat tonight: because ordinary people realize that Joe Lieberman and the Washington Establishment he represents has for too long been allowed to sell out their constituents and this country as a whole.

Ned Lamont is the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Connecticut. Every single Democratic office holder in this country (that means you: Kerry, Feingold, Clinton, Edwards, Warner, et al.) has an obligation to respect the Democratic Party primary election that took place tonight, lest they too go on record as saying they see Democratic Party voters and America's democratic process as an afterthought in comparison to their own personal political ambitions. (Good news: Lieberman's DLC colleague Sen. Evan Bayh immediately announced after the primary his endorsement of Lamont).

Likewise, Democratic leaders in Congress now have an obligation to remove Lieberman from his committee assignments, and cut off Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee resources, now that he has officially left the Democratic Party.

This is an incredible victory tonight. Ordinary people showed that no politician -- even a snake like Lieberman with every single advantage -- is above American democracy. Though Lieberman and the lobbyists who are backing him would like everyone to forget about democracy, Ned Lamont tonight showed that ordinary people in this country still have power, and that no Senate seat is the exclusive property of any one individual.