Thursday, November 05, 2009

Governor Lamont's Chance

The day after the mid-term elections in which Republicans in Connecticut appeared to have staged something of a come-back, evidence that the party is not cold-stone dead, Ned Lamont announced he was forming a committee to explore a run for governor.

The following day, his announcement was wreathed in headlines. The Hartford Courant ran a top of the fold front page story: “Ned Lamont May Run For Governor.”

Is there any significance to the timing?

If one is going to throw one’s hat “near the ring,” as one publication put it, a post election period is not a bad time to do it. The T.S. Elliot poem, “The Lovesong Of J. Alfred Prufrock” comes to mind:

“There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;…
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”
The attention grabbing headlines suggest that Lamont’s entrée into the race will change the Democratic political terrain. There are now multiple candidates on the Democratic and Republican side both in the gubernatorial race and the race for the senate.

Lamont is best known for having won a primary against Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose unpalatable position on the Iraq war earned him the enmity of left wing progressives.

In a late day interview with Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points Memo (TPM) , a liberal blog site, Lamont was asked whether he expected to win the endorsement of Sen. Joe Lieberman.

"I, um, I wouldn't expect that," Lamont said, after a brief pause. "But I certainly reached out to Sen. Lieberman today, if he wants to hear why I'm doing this, and why I think it's important."
It may have been a bad day for the senator, whose office in Washington DC was infested with 9 sit-ins protesting Lieberman’s position on health care.

Lieberman ran in the general election as an Independent and managed to hang on to his seat; it was here that an irreparable breech occurred. The primary jihad threw into bold relief a split in the Democratic Party those on the left continue to exploit.

In the course of his primary battle, Lamont assembled a “kitchen cabinet” that may prove useful to him in a prospective gubernatorial campaign.

In the kitchen during Lamont’s primary were: Tom Swan of the “Connecticut Citizen Action Group,” a left wing group fathered in 1970 by Ralph Nader and then congressman Toby Moffett; Tom D’Amore, Lowell Weicker’s aide de camp during his senatorial reign and later during Weicker’s wandering in the wilderness as an Independent governor; Weicker himself, who came out of retirement to plug Lamont’s campaign against his old nemesis Joe Lieberman, and the usual suspects in the media. Possibly Bill Cibes, who ran for governor on a pro-income tax plank and was soundly rejected, may have been floating around the Lamont camp under deep cover.

The reassembling of the kitchen cabinet active during Lamont’s senatorial campaign may already be in process. Lamont and Cibes are attached at the head. As pedagogical bunkmates at Central State University in New Britain, they have written together a paper regarded by some on the left, now slouching towards the center, as a program of action that may prefigure Lamont’s gubernatorial campaign.

Bass remarked in his report that Lamont’s gubernatorial run will be “different” than his primary. In politics – particularly for candidates like Lamont, who has no previous baggage as a practical politician – there always will be time for visions and revisions.

It will be recalled that Weicker, during in his own career in public office, cut his jib to the political winds; that is what a “maverick” does.

Weicker began his career in the senate as a screaming pro-Vietnam war Republican. Only later did the conservative Republican from Greenwich discover the virtue of being a maverick, “his own man” as he referred to himself in campaigns in which he made common cause with Democratic senators Chris Dodd and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Connecticut Republicans attached by bonds of affection to their party even now -- so fresh is the memory of Weicker’s recurring and wounding defections -- would have no difficulty in drawing up a “history of repeated injuries and usurpations” on Weicker’s part, as Thomas Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence, that forced his party, finally and at long last, to declare its independence of the maverick.

The principle virtue of the “maverick” is maneuverability. Throwing off the bonds that tie him to his party, the maverick can more easily move between ideological lines and snatch votes from the right, left and center – to be sure, at the risk of being disrespected by his base.

The blood of the far left still runs hot against Lieberman, and Lamont has surrounded himself with friendly Weicker associates. Indeed, it would be only a slight exaggeration to say that Lamont is Weicker’s political afterlife. A Greenwich millionaire, Lamont has lots of money, a few ideas that may propel him in a more moderate direction, much good will on the far left for his yeoman’s service in the primary against Lieberman, and a practical political background shallow enough to allow him to present himself to the general public as a “pragmatist.”

In Connecticut politics, pragmatists are those politicians proficient in fooling most of the people some of the time.

Lamont has a chance.

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