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Connecticut Voters Turn Anti-War
[Analysis] Former Democratic VP nominee Lieberman ousted for his pro-Bush stance
Timothy Savage (yamanin)     Print Article 
Published 2006-08-09 16:44 (KST)   
Ending weeks of speculation, Connecticut voters on Tuesday handed a stunning victory to political newcomer Ned Lamont over three-term incumbent Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, the Democratic Party's 2000 nominee for vice president, was ousted largely due to his stance in favor of the Iraq War, and his consistent support of President George W. Bush's increasingly unpopular policies.

In his 18 years in office, Lieberman had carved a niche for himself as the most conservative member of the Democratic Party. Indeed, his victory over liberal Republican Lowell Wiecker is probably the only case in recent memory when a victory by a Democrat over a Republican incumbent actually moved the Senate to the right. (Wiecker, who has since become an independent, supported Democratic challenger Ned Lamont in the primary.) It is unknown to what degree Lieberman's choice as Al Gore's running mate caused liberal defections to third party candidate Ralph Nader in 2000, thus contributing to the electoral mess in Florida that resulted in the eventual appointment of Bush.

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Despite the loss, Lieberman's political career has not quite come to an end. In his markedly non-conciliatory concession speech, he announced that he would run for his seat as an independent in November. The Republican nominee, Alan Schlesinger, has been plagued by reports of his ties to gambling interests, making it possible that Lieberman will draw enough support from Republicans and from the 11 percent of Democrats who support the war to return to the Senate for a fourth term. He has pledged to continue to caucus with the Dems, even while he votes with the Republicans.

Nonetheless, the significance of Lieberman's defeat should not be overlooked, considering the degree to with the U.S. political system heavily favors preservation of the status quo. He became only the fourth incumbent senator to lose a primary race in the last 26 years.

Much has been made of the role of the liberal bloggers in bringing about Lieberman's defeat. Blogs such as Daily Kos had been beating the drum against Lieberman for some time, and embraced Lamont early on after he declared his candidacy. Still, lest we go too far in trumpeting the return of grassroots democracy to America, it should be noted that it was Lamont's vast personal fortune that allowed him to get out his message through the more traditional media.

The clear message is that Democratic voters are seeking a candidate who will articulate an exit strategy for Iraq. It's no coincidence that New York Senator and presumptive presidential frontrunner Hilary Clinton -- whose political positions are so poll-driven that her nickname should be "The Human Windsock" -- recently decided to go on the attack against the Bush administration, calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for his mismanagement of the war.

Still, many leading Democrats remain frightened of speaking out against the war, fearing that they'll be labeled as soft on security issues. But how does continuing to promulgate an ill-conceived, unnecessary and unwinnable war advance national security?

Instead of sheepishly trying to ape Republican positions, the Democrats should use the time between this November's mid-term elections and the 2008 presidential election to articulate a new strategy for American foreign policy. One important element, of course, is how to respond to the real threats (as opposed to Bush administration fear-mongering) posed by Islamist terrorism. There are many experts on Islam and the Middle East who would be all too happy to contribute to such a process, especially considering the current administration's known disdain to listening to advice from people who actually know something about the subject.

Other elements of a viable approach should include a national energy strategy that promotes alternative energy development and energy efficiency to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels from volatile regions of the world, and policy changes that will help restore the global image of the United States that has been so badly damaged by Bush's support of torture and general flouting of international law. Democrats should also summarily abandon the Bush policy of "not negotiating with evil," instead embracing the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's dictate that "It's always better to jaw-jaw than to war-war."

An approach along these lines, in addition to being good policy, would also be popular among the electorate outside of the Republicans' core constituency of Red State Bible thumpers. It is high time the Democrats abandon the old Clintonian strategy of triangulation and remember the wise words of former president Harry Truman: "Given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, they'll choose the Republican every time."
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Timothy Savage

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