Champagne is still bubbling over Ned Lamont’s primary victory over war apologist and Bush-snogger Joe Lieberman, and I’m as happy about it as anyone. Lamont’s win is a triumph for (small d)democratic participation (since too few incumbents are challenged). It also represents a (rare) show of power for grass-roots organizing, sends a clear message to the Democratic Party about Iraq and — most importantly, and unusually — punishes a politician for being wrong. Deeply, fatally, immorally wrong.
But allow me for a moment to rain on this victory parade. Most major labor unions supported Lieberman, and the AFL-CIO is even planning to sit out the general election rather than support Lamont, rendering the group even more pathetic than Hillary Clinton, who this time — to her credit — not only said she would respect the decision of the voters, but wrote Lamont a $5,000 check. The unions’ stance is partly understandable. Lieberman’s voting record on labor issues is not bad, and Lamont was an unknown quantity (as well as a boss whose own workforce is not unionized, and a member of the super-rich community). But Lieberman’s support of the bankruptcy “reform” bill, which was written by the credit card industry and will cause immense financial hardship for working Americans, should have given the unions pause. And even more importantly, unions should be thinking about how to connect with the organized grassroots liberalism — given voice by the blogosphere, the former Deaniacs, MoveOn.com — that Lamont represents, or they are doomed to ever more irrelevance. And let’s not let those grassroots liberals off the hook either; next time they line up behind an unknown wealthy candidate like Lamont, they should pressure that person to be much smarter on issues that directly affect working America. A gang of pissed-off yuppies isn’t — by itself — going to make serious social change. As powerful — and perhaps, headed for victory — as the Lamont campaign is, it would be so much stronger if labor and the anti-war netroots could work together. That would not only guarantee a win in November: it would be a coalition with a real future.