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What Shays' Opponents Can Learn From History, Before They Are Doomed To Repeat It

If Dianne Farrell’s strategy is to tie President George Bush around Republican Rep. Chris Shays’ neck like an albatross, hoping that a distaste for Bush is transferable to Shays, it is a fair bet that this strategy will fail. It will not work because it has not worked. Shays has been careful to inoculate himself from the conservative virus in all his campaigns. Shays’ shtick is that he is, like Lowell Weicker before him, a maverick – his own man.

Anti-war lynch mob bloggers have seen through that particular façade in the case of Lieberman, who has earned their displeasure by departing from far left orthodoxy – most especially on the war in Iraq. The progressives’ beef with Lieberman is that he has not driven enough nails into Bush’s coffin, proof positive, in their opinion, that he is a faux Democrat.

What anti-Shays agitators ought to be asking is this: “What sort of a campaigner can defeat Shays,” and they should be willing to approach the question in cold blood.

Conservatives, champing at the bit during the Weicker hegemony, were asking themselves the very same question. The answer they came up with was: Joe Lieberman could defeat Weicker. Lieberman was not at the time – nor is he now – a conservative. Everything about Lieberman – his past political history, ideology and voting record – screams “moderate to liberal Democrat.” Even as I write, Hillary Clinton, lean and hungry, is primping in the same moderate to liberal outfit.

True blue conservatives in the years of the Weicker hegemony, their hearts sealed in ice, made a sort of pact with the devil: They would support Lieberman, who could defeat Weicker and remove the “turd from the Republican punchbowl,” a ribald expression coined by Weicker to describe his strained relationship with his party.

Leftists in the Democrat Party are facing a similar mirror image problem in Shays' case. Shays’ enemies all are mustered on his armored left flank, while his right flank is completely exposed. If there were in the Democrat Party a candidate for Shays’ seat who stood to his right on a few issues, he or she might have a chance of unhorsing him. But there isn’t, and there won’t be – because keepers of the progressive flame will not allow an assault centered on Shays’ unprotected right side. A Democrat candidate who could attack Shay’s on his exposed side would not be sufficiently liberal for Daily Kos and other likeminded progressive bloggers in Connecticut that appear to have fallen out of Markos Moulitsas Zúniga’s pockets; Zúniga is the proprietor of the Daily Kos blog.

When Farrell threw her support to Lieberman rather than the Daily Kos favored candidate, Ned Lamont, progressives read her out of their minds, if not out of their party, and threatend to hurl at her the same Zeusian thunderbolts they have been slinging at Lieberman. Not one far left thunderbolt has yet singed so much as a hair on Shays' chinny, chin, chin.

For progressives, this is a problem that will not retreat when met with indifference.


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