Disclosure: I worked for the Lamont campaign doing web design and production and some writing for the official blog (from 9/5/06 to 11/07/06).

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Lamont Campaign Already Paying Dividends

So Lieberman made a big deal today about calling for the restructuring of FEMA, and if you take one look at his campaign site, it's hard to find a headline which doesn't include a phrase like "leads charge against Bush." As blogger d-day notes, this is partial evidence of the Lamont campaign already paying dividends in its nascent weeks and months:

So Lieberman's moving back to the left to secure his primary spot. He's coming out in a high-profile way to criticize the President. He's "showing leadership" on Katrina by calling for major changes to Homeland Security. And this means that we've already accomplished something pretty big in Connecticut. Without a primary challenge, I don't think you'd be seeing any of this happen. I'm not actively pushing for Lieberman's ouster (I'd rather focus on defeating Republicans), but I think primaries are great because it keeps politicians honest. By putting this kind of pressure on Lieberman we've made some tangible changes in his behavior. And that will continue even if he succeeds in his primary fight and continues to serve in the Senate.

Now, no one should be naïve enough to think that this primary challenge will change the stripes of a senator like Lieberman, who has built his entire career on his particular brand of smarmy self-righteousness and with the active support of the far right. But, still, political expediency necessitates that, for the next few months at least (and unless he decides to bolt the party), he emphasize his disagreements with Bush instead of, say, his friendship with Sean Hannity. And that can't hurt. (Speaking of which, Mike Stark dug up a November 2005 interview between the two "pals" where Joe again agreed to come on his show every month, yet it's been over two months now and Sean is censoring any mention of his buddy's name this week.)

But win or lose, the benefits of the Lamont challenge will not be merely temporary, and they will not be limited to Connecticut, as Chris Bowers points out in a must-read post on primary challenges nationwide:

The Connecticut Senate primary... is the immediate, short-term target in what must be understood as a long-term strategy. Ned Lamont's campaign in Connecticut has been overwhelmingly netroots fueled, and started form a point of seeming hopelessness. Winning, or seriously, seriously threatening, Lieberman in Connecticut would send shockwaves through the Democratic ecosystem around the country, changing the behavior of many of its constituents parts. It would demonstrate that progressives, reformers, and the netroots have emerged as serious players in primary elections outside of the Presidential race, and that a Democratic incumbent must view the threat of a netroots challenge as something to worry about. Success in the Connecticut primary will also provide us with a template to conduct other primary challenges, along with knowledge about what worked, and what did not.

...In 2006, I do not want the netroots to over-extend in primary challenges, and end up both looking and being ineffective in generating serious challenges. Because of this, for now, I believe we need to focus our national efforts in primaries against problematic incumbents entirely in the Connecticut Senatorial primary. Let's do one right before we decide to run a full slate. The best-case scenario is that we succeed internally in Connecticut in August and then succeed nationally against Republicans in November. If we can accomplish both of those goals, then the political world will never be the same, and 2008 will be an entirely different ballgame for problematic Democratic incumbents.

No, we may never be able to change George Bush's Favorite Democrat (née William F. Buckley's Favorite Democrat). But we will be able to change the Democratic party. And the successes of that long-term effort are becoming apparent even now.
Sorry, but I'm not about to celebrate Joe being a chameleon to get re-elected. This isn't a success for Ned's campaign that Joe's changing his stripes to appear to be fighting Bush, it's a big danger if he succeeds in making people think he really is such a Democrat.

As to the value of challenges being good whether or not they actually win, I'd say this:
Let's not talk about what you'd be happy with at this point; it shows too much of your hand. Stay focused on the target and think about this stuff (publicly at least) after the campaign is over.

Lamont is a great candidate and has what it takes to win, and would be a better senator than Joe. Period. Keep the focus on this, I say.
Thanks for the link.

I'm not so naive to think that the leopard will change his spots. But making Joementum squirm back to the left is not only a joy to behold, but has benefits for the party. We look like a united party when even our most off-the-reservation Democrat acts like a Democrat again. Political expediency, in my mind, means "listening to your constituents." We need a LOT more politicians who do that. And imperiling their job security does wonders for opening up the old ear canal.

I'm realistic but I do really think that Lamont has a shot to pull it off. Best of luck!
I don't see how Lieberman joining with Bush to complete the destruction of FEMA is "leading the charge against Bush." FEMA doesn't need to be re-structured. It needs to be restored. And continuing in the direction Bush wants -- more bureaucratic enmeshment with DHS -- is a sure way to kill it.

Way to go, Joe.
I go back and forth, trying to determine who's the worst DINO: Joementum or Hillary the Hawk.

I've concluded they're tied.

Lieberman is in deep bandini and if Lamont continues attacking him on the issues, smart money says Joementum will be retired.
PeterB- to be clear, I'm not advocating celebrating a thing. But while winning the election should be the goal, what I am arguing is that these ancillary benefits are inevitable, win or lose. And they make the campaign worthwhile. I think more people already ideologically predisposed to supporting Ned Lamont will be willing to join in the effort if they understand this process argument behind it.

dday - I hope you didn't think I was calling you naive, that wasn't my intention. Joe's main problem is that he's never had to deal solely with the Democratic party in any election. He has no notion of being resposive to the party, he's always won with significant GOP support (just look at his current approval ratings by party). So is squriming as he is forced to actually act in a matter representative of his Democratic constituents.
thirdparty, thanks for the elaboration. I agree with your desire to convince people to support Ned (by making the "added benefit" argument.) Making that argument has a downside, though.

Process arguments take away from the goal of replacing Joe with Ned, as they suggest that the challenger involved isn't quite so important, so long as the challenge is made. And the fact is, we now know we have a great candidate in Ned, so using this as a selling point does him (and our cause) a disservice, I'd say.

Also, it says things wouldn't be so bad if we don't win. Frankly, I happen to disagree with that premise, but even if it were true, it wouldn't be wise to discuss this during the campaign. It lowers the bar to a standard of "let's run a great campaign" instead of winning outright and since that's subject to interpretation, it can give people an excuse to do less for the campaign and not sacrifice so much for it.

Talking about ancillary benefits rather than the goal of electing Ned also might make it seem like this is a cynical, politically calculated effort. (IE "These people would be challenging Joe no matter what because it's good for them for other reasons. They don't expect Ned to beat Joe")

No disrespect intended to you, please understand. I also recognize, as a lurker of a number of months, the substantial work that you've done pushing this cause forward. I just have a bone to pick on this line of discussion.
Peter- I took no offense to your argument at all, you make a good point, and in a civil manner.

I think there is a tough line to draw here between the two goals of a) convincing people that the campaign is worth their time and effort win or lose, and b) making sure we all don't start resting on our laurels even a bit. But I do hear concerns from people about taking on this challenge instead of focusing fire on Republicans, and often coming from people who would otherwise support Lamont's 100% and who have no love for Joe.

I think if these activists see that this campaign serves a purpose in and of itself, they might be more willing to jump on board. And in any case, as evidenced by Bowers' post, this realization has already played a big part in growing Lamont's support in the blogosphere. So in some ways it's worth noting for that fact alone.
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