Here’s a New Year’s resolution that liberal bloggers and mainstream journalists can agree on: Let’s talk less about Joe Lieberman next year. A lot less.
For most of 2006, Connecticut’s junior senator was relentlessly lambasted by bloggers, who jump-started Ned Lamont’s successful primary campaign, and hailed by Beltway reporters, who celebrated Lieberman’s re-election by declaring him the most pivotal member of a closely divided Senate. The unrelenting criticism, glorification and analysis of the political enigma that is Joe Lieberman could certainly benefit from benign neglect in 2007.
Yet just as Augustine prayed, “grant me chastity…but not yet,” perhaps one last rehash of the fall and rise of Joe Lieberman is in order. Especially if it’s a freewheeling, three-hour knock-down debate with strategists from the three campaigns from Connecticut’s Senate race, local and national reporters, an academic pollster (and this writer) at a symposium convened by Lieberman’s alma mater, Yale University. That was the scene this month, in two feisty panels that showed Lieberman’s supporters and detractors still have plenty to fight about. (C-SPAN posted both panels here under “Conference on Connecticut Senate Race, Part 1.”)
Bill Hillsman, a maverick adman who worked for Paul Wellstone and Ralph Nader before helping Lamont’s primary campaign, argued that Democrats would not have won Congress “if it wasn’t for Ned Lamont.” Across the country, he said, Democrats’ antiwar ads and messages were pulled right from Lamont’s playbook. “My cat could have run those ads,” replied Lieberman strategist Roy Occhiogrosso. He said it was obvious that Democrats should run against the unpopular war. The two camps traded barbs in that vein for about half an hour.
Then the discussion turned to the elephant in the room, but absent from the panel. What exactly did those famous bloggers do?
Lieberman adviser Lanny Davis, who is believed to dislike bloggers almost as much as they dislike him, offered an intriguing analysis. He said the “blogosphere is reminiscent of the New Politics” of 1960s antiwar activists, who reformed the Democratic Party by challenging the party bosses, upending the national convention in 1968 and seizing the presidential nomination process in 1972. It almost sounded like praise for the budding netroots movement, but Davis was not finished. He went on to argue that the old antiwar protesters failed to understand they were “a slice of a slice of a slice of a slice of the electorate,” so they ran too far left and lost forty-nine states under George McGovern. Davis thinks that history repeated itself in Connecticut, where the antiwar movement could not carry the general election.