Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mood Swings

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet
– The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Elliot

The key to a successful campaign in Connecticut – if you are a Democrat – is to swing left in a primary and right in a general election. Primaries are songs sung to the Democrat choir. One of the reasons Sen. Joe Lieberman did not vigorously defend his principled position on the Iraq war during the primary was because the Democrat choir in Connecticut is unappeasable in its pacifism. What is the point in preaching to a choir of doves if you are a hawk? Lieberman’s opponent, Greenwich millionaire Ned Lamont, tacked left during the primary, and now he intends to move in an opposite direction so that he may capture what some have called “the vital center,” a simmering cauldron of dissident and doubtful voices.

A tantalizing item from the Drudge Report to the effect that Lamont intended to make adjustments to his staff, the better to prepare for a more moderate general campaign, created titters and shivers of delight among conservative bloggers and political commentators. Drudge noted that a news report on the “shake up” would soon be appearing in the New York Times. But in the much anticipated story, the changes outlined by the increasingly liberal, anti-Lieberman paper did not indicate significant shifts in Lamont’s political tectonic plates.

“National Democrats," the Times said, “are providing ideas to his campaign on policy issues and staffing, as well as a steady flow of donations, Lamont aides said.” The general campaign will “require Mr. Lamont, a Greenwich millionaire …to calibrate his own identity as self-described liberal.” And, of course, there is the never ending question of money. “As the newly proclaimed Democratic nominee,” the Times noted, “Mr. Lamont is moving to adopt a general election strategy that attracts more moderate voters, who are crucial to victory in Connecticut elections. He is also seeking at least two experienced fund-raising aides to tap more donors in Connecticut and nationwide, particularly those who are excited by the antiwar message.”

The trick is to acquire new more moderate voters without alienating what has been, until now, Lamont’s political base. Lamont’s newly acquired political friends are eager to lend a hand. “Former President Bill Clinton and Mrs. Clinton,” the Times says, “ have offered to campaign for Mr. Lamont — his aides say the offer will be accepted — and the Lamont campaign is setting up meetings with Mrs. Clinton and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.”

Ex President Bill Clinton, the father of triangulation and reinvention had little difficulty shifting from the Lieberman to the Lamont camp. A few days before the primary, Clinton was in Connecticut pumping up the candidacy of his old comrade in arms. Both Lieberman and Clinton were past presidents of the Democrat Leadership Council, an organization formed to lure Democrats from the fever swamps of radical liberalism to the vital center of American politics. Early supporters of Lamont -- including DailyKos, a web nest of progressives, George Soros, moneylender to progressive causes, and even Michael Moore -- have pledged to destroy the DLC root and branch.

It is not apparent from Clinton ’s most recent remarks on Lamont that he will be able to lure Lamont’s primary supporters from their fever swamps out into the broad and airy plain of moderate Democrat politics. Nor is it apparent that they would willingly march to a reconfigured piper.

The reconfiguration was present in larval form throughout Lamont’s successful primary venture; it will mature during the general election. The harsh anti-war notes of the primary will be softened – not a bad idea after Hezbollah’s attack on Israel . Lamont’s earlier primary supporters no doubt will be put off by his triangulation and reinvention, but a politician has got to do what a politician has got to do.
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