Monday, October 16, 2006

Lieberman The Independent

Nobody has given serious thought yet to what an independent Sen. Joe Lieberman would be like should he prevail against Democrat U.S. senatorial nominee Ned Lamont in November.

Lieberman, who considers himself a Democrat -- though he now wears on his chest the scarlet letter of an independent -- has said he would continue to caucus with Democrats, which seems to mean that he would be an independent in name only. Lieberman has been assured by his former political friends, now purring and rubbing their sent off on Lamont, that he would retain his 18 years of seniority; that is to say, he would lose none of his status and authority within the Democratic caucus.

A reporter caught Lieberman on the stump recently and asked several seemingly innocuous questions that caused the senator’s overly reflective brain to kick into its thoughtful mode. Should Democrats take over the U.S. House of Representatives, would America be better off?

“Uh, I haven’t thought about that enough to give an answer,” Lieberman responded.

Will he be voting this year for the Democrat nominee for governor, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, or will he be casting his ballot for Republican governor Jodi Rell?

“Uh, I’m having…” Lieberman stumbled – a brain cramp maybe.

The questions were a little Tricky-Dicky. Since homegrown Democrats this year are backing Lamont, it is not altogether certain that a rousing affirmation by Lieberman – “Of course, I’ll be voting the Democrat ticket, whatyathink!” – would be helpful to Democrats who have bailed out on him and now publicly support their party’s nominee. Perhaps Lieberman was trying to be helpful, both to his former political associates and himself; he is, after all, a hot property among forlorn Republicans and independent voters.

The reporter did not ask DeStefano or Sen. Chris Dodd whether either would be comfortable accepting a heartfelt endorsement from Lieberman, the leper of the Democrat Party.

Dodd – who managed his father’s campaign after Sen. Tom Dodd was censured by the U.S Senate for misappropriation of campaign funds, lost the Democrat nomination and launched an independent run for the senate -- soon will take a break from his own presidential campaign, a path well trodden by Lieberman, to stump for Lamont.

Dodd has been studying editorials that have popped up in Connecticut’s press, Lamont’s campaign literature and his conscience. A quick study, the senator seems to have got it all down pat: Lieberman hadn’t been paying close enough attention to the people, God bless’em; he has been too detached from the pressing concerns of his state, the result in part of his national status as a presidential candidate; independence is all well and good, but still one cannot let the partisan fire in the belly go out … yadda, yadda, yadda …

The overwhelming fact – massive as Gibraltar – that seems to have gone unnoticed is this: LIEBERMAN HAS BECOME THE ALAN SCHLESINGER OF THE DEMOCRAT PARTY.

“Alan who?” you will ask. And why does any of this matter?

Schlesinger, not accustomed to hiding his light under a bushel, is the Republican nominee for U.S. senator. Had Lieberman “gone gentle into that good night” following the Democrat primary, Schlesinger would be battling Lamont for status and prestige in Washington D.C. Campaign battles on the Connecticut home front often have been touted as battles for the soul of the parties: Democrat primary battlers Lieberman, Lamont, DeStefano and Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy were said to be battling for “the soul of the Democrat Party,” a shopworn formulation that is not even half a lie. There is no soul to the parties, because the parties themselves have been reduced to ghostly presences.

Especially here in Connecticut, a no man’s land of unaffiliated voters and sovereign independent incumbents, campaign reforms have emasculated the parties. There are interest or political trusts; there is a huge struggle in the state and nation for status and prestige, a jihad for notoriety; there are party banners under which candidates stage mock battles for the soul of their parties; there are cardboard cutout political conventions and styrofoam party chairman; there are campaign signs galore – that almost always do not mention party affiliation. But there are no political parties, as Tom Dodd might have understood parties.

The parties are over. Someone please turn out the lights.
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