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The morning after
With many days of discussion ahead, I offer a quick take on the meaning of Lamont’s win last night:
1. Those running too close to Bush and his government could pay a heavy price this fall. Joe Lieberman has been one of the most public defenders of Bush and his failed government, even attacking other Democrats who challenged Bush. Two-thirds of the American people want a new direction. Candidates credibly offering a new path will have the upper hand this fall.
2. In this new era, partisanship is a virtue. The conservatives rise to power, and their utter failure to govern responsibly or effectively, requires a new progressive politics of confrontation, not accommodation. This new politics may be uncomfortable to those used to an America governed by Democrats and progressive values, but for our politics and values to triumph progressives must and are learning how to resist “cutting deals,” working to “get things done” on terms set by an irresponsible governing majority.
This is not an ideological development in progressive politics, but a pragmatic one. Senator Lieberman never understood this, constantly seeing this discussion through an outdated and inappropriate ideological prism. Of course there is room for someone with Senator Lieberman’s view on the War, for example. He was after all endorsed by virtually ever major institution in the Democratic family. There is a growing, and necessary, intolerance, however, of progressive leaders unwilling to take on Bush and his failed government head on – and this was the battleground in this election, whether the Senator understood it or not.
I have great sympathy for those wishing our politics could be more genteel, where both sides could come together to work things out for the common good. But we live in a different time, and our the rising partisanship in the Democratic Party is a necessary, pragmatic and I believe virtuous response to the circumstances we face today at the dawn of the 21st century.
3. A new 21st century politics is emerging. As NDN and its affiliate NPI have been saying for some time, new governing challenges, new ways of communication and a changing American people are rapidly creating a new politics unfamiliar to those of us who grew up in 20th century American politics. Political success in the future will derive from a leader’s mastery not just of a compelling and effective governing agenda, but of “new 21st century tools” to get one’s message out more effectively and the engagement of vital new citizens who are yearning to be part of – and ultimately will change – our politics.
4. Senator Lieberman should end his re-election bid. There are many reasons he should bring his campaign to an end, but in this entry I site one above all - performance. From the beginning of this race the Senator has seemed to be conducting a campaign for a different era, a different conversation and a different time. Given his stature, losing a Democratic Primary to an unknown opponent is a political failure of great magnitude. I have offered my advice and my critique of what has been a terrible campaign on this blog for the past several weeks. Given the scale of the mistakes he has made so far, and how out of touch with the state he has become, why should anyone believe he will figure out to do something seldom done in history – win as an independent after losing a primary?
It is time, my good friend. Senator Lieberman, it is time. Time to end this part of your remarkable career with dignity, grace and honor. You had a great run, made a great contribution, and done a lot of good. But it is time to move on.
Given the interest on this issue, i wanted to point to some previous blogs during the Primary campaign. I wrote about Senator Lieberman's three main missteps last week, and earlier in the month had offered my advice on his campaign. I also posted some comments on a perceptive article by Ruth Marcus. I hope this helps understand where I am coming from on this. Simon.