Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lamont win a sweet victory but also a probable turning point

To many progressive activists, last night's win over Joe Lieberman in Connecticut seems like a surreal dream, an impossibility come true, a miracle. Despite the backing of the nation's political establishment, endorsements by many prominent Democrats (and right wing pundits) Joe Lieberman was tossed aside by his own constituents for a more authentic candidate.

A majority of voters threw their support behind someone who understands and shares the frustrations and dreams of the American people, both in Connecticut and throughout the United States.

Ned Lamont is a hero for putting his name, his reputation, and a lot of his money on the line to give his fellow citizens a choice. Voters turned out in record numbers in that primary not to hand the establishment figure the usual win, but to back the voice for change.

Lamont's triumph is a sweet victory, not just because it took so much work, and not just because Joe Lieberman has been a hindrance to the caucus for so long, but really because we've been headed in the wrong direction for so long.

We've invested in races like Paul Hackett's in Ohio, Ciro Rodriguez's in Texas, and Francine Busby's in California - only to see those candidates come close, but not clinch a victory.

In recent weeks we have been chalking up wins everywhere: Tester's victory in Montana and Webb's in Virgina preceded last night's win in Connecticut. And Lamont wasn't the only primary challenger who won last night: two other incumbents, both in the U.S. House, fell to primary challengers - Cynthia McKinney in Georgia lost to Hank Johnson, while Joe Schwartz in Michigan (a Republican) lost to Tim Wahlberg.

Three challengers defeated three incumbents last night in contests to decide who will go forward carrying the party banners in November.

But the Lamont victory especially signals what may be considered, months and years from now, a turning point in American politics, quite possibly the beginning of a realignment. In many ways it's too early to tell.

One diarist on DailyKos is writing of 2006 as "the year American democracy was saved". The defeat of Lieberman is a major event for every elected Democratic officeholder throughout the country.

It is a very clear assurance that a new people powered progressive movement is capable of not only making noise, but winning elections.

This isn't our first win, and it won't be our last. But it's very significant. A message has just been sent that selling your soul to the other side, as Joe did, is a costly and unacceptable move. Lieberman and his admirers stand for a Democratic Party that serves the Republican Party in our nation's capitol.

That's something we can't afford.

We need a united Democratic Party forcing Republican capitulation - not the other way around. And if we're to have a united Democratic Party, then that means ego driven traitors have to go. Joe Lieberman was the defining example, and now he's gone from the Democratic ranks.

A writer for TIME Magazine declares that "the Netroots' moment has arrived." Well, actually, we've had quite a few good moments before this (including electoral victories - Tester's triumph comes to mind) but there's no denying the shock waves this upset has created.

The 2006 midterms are being redefined. They will be both a national referendum on George W. Bush and a series of local contests that play out in congressional districts from Florida to Hawaii. Democratic challengers can gain the upper hand under either pretense with the proper machinery and message in place to create a real competition.

Many establishment forecasters are saying the Lieberman defeat should be a warning shot to Republicans, not a cause for celebration:
Mr Sabato said it was the Republicans who had the most to fear from the unpopularity of the president and the war.

"The real question is what happens with Bush and Iraq through November. If the war somehow ceases to be the disaster that it is, and if Bush somehow manages to rise to something close to 50% [approval rating], then this could backfire on the Democrats.

"But as long as Bush and the war remain unpopular, then this will not be a problem for the Democrats in 2006," he predicted.
Dubya and his team have shown zero interest in straying from their "stay the course" policy. It's highly unlikely the situation in Iraq will improve much before Election Day. Furthermore, many Republicans are overconfident and believe that in the final weeks they can stop Democrats by framing as weak on national security and lacking the will to finish the job in Iraq.

The problem is that framing like that isn't going to work against the new, hardened progressive challengers emerging to run for Congress this year. Many are in fact Iraq veterans, or have solid military credentials (think Webb in Virginia) and know how to fight back (hence the name "Fighting Dems"). You could call them the Paul Hackett Democrats.

America is ready for change. We see indication after indication that this is the year when a blue, refreshing tidal wave sweeps across America and ends the Republican lock on Congress.

What happened in Connecticut yesterday could very well be the beginning of that wave - the turning point when the Democratic Party became a real opposition party that fights back rather than a weak and unattractive alternative to the Republicans.

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