Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Are We All Liebermans Now?

Writing in the New Haven Advocate, Greg Hladky peered into Sen. Joe Lieberman’s future in Connecticut politics. The results were “mixed,” as some in the business might say.

Hladky began his analysis by observing that Connecticut avoided the tsunami that swept Republicans into the U.S. Congress in the upcoming term. What does such steadfastness mean for Lieberman’s career?

Lieberman, it will be recalled, was challenged in a primary by liberal heartthrob Ned Lamont. While he lost the primary – and, apparently, his party affiliation -- Lieberman won the general election running as an Independent. In that race, Lieberman drew upon a large number of Republican and Independent votes. It is likely that some old school Democrats, repulsed by extreme liberal positions, also voted for Lieberman.

The Lieberman-Lamont drama, all things else being equal, is not likely to repeat itself for the following reasons:

1) Should Lieberman defend his seat as an Independent in a three way race, the Republicans, once stung twice cautious, likely will not put up a weak candidate to run against him. This time around, a three way race may benefit Republicans. Rob Simmons, for instance, is on Republican ice, and even left of center commentators appeared to take a shine to him during his contest with Linda McMahon.

2) The spit and fire has gone out of the anti-war movement, possibly because Democratic President Barack Obama has decided to pursue a militarily aggressive posture in Afghanistan, a collection of warlords known to some historians as the “graveyard of empires.”

3) There are no exact repetitions in politics because time and chance consistently toss new possibilities on to the political stage.

How would Rep. Chris Murphy fare in a three way race that included Lieberman and a strong Republican candidate? Among Democrats who matter, it is an article of faith that Murphy, left thinking Democrats’ great white hope, will challenge Lieberman, Murphy being the new Lamont.

But Murphy and Rep. Jim Himes, both adept politicians, are also reading the future. So is senator elect-Blumenthal. All three, during their campaigns, took care to put some buffers between themselves and the Obama administration. These three -- if not Reps. John Larson and Rosa DeLauro, whose districts make them impervious to assaults from right of center Republicans – certainly will return to Washington chastened by the national turn to the center.

Which means that ideologically and temperamentally Lieberman’s Democratic opposition might be much more Liebermanesque than the senator’s most acerbic critics suppose.

The open question is this: With the exception of safe Democrats in gerrymandered districts, will the remaining Democrats in Connecticut’s Democratic congressional delegation become Lieberman adepts in the new congress?

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