Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Great Ideologically Correct Hope

"There are a lot of people who feel that 18 years is enough for a senator."
-Joe Lieberman, on the 1988 campaign trail. (Ravo)

They had found their savior at last. He was a wealthy Greenwich businessman, from a family with long-established political credentials and name recognition, but, most importantly, the hardcore party activists felt he was one of them.

Many of the party faithful couldn’t stand the incumbent senator. He had constantly infuriated and confounded them by going against his party in all-too-public ways, and had embarrassed them by running then abandoning a miserable failure of a presidential campaign two years earlier. State party leaders grumbled about his spotty campaigning in state for their candidates, and activists complained that he was ideologically out of step with the rest of the party. A national chorus began to grow for his removal among party stalwarts.

But the senator was “electable,” meaning that he had as much (if not more) support among independents and members of the opposite party than his own. The party couldn’t afford to lose his seat, not with so much on the line. So they unhappily settled in for another six years of misery.

But then, a man who seemed like the perfect primary opponent appeared, and everything changed. Party leaders rushed to his side. The grassroots went wild. Money flowed in. And why not? The party faithful could get rid of a constant irritation, and elect someone who knew what they wanted, and would support the party in Washington instead of working against it. Lines were drawn. A bitter primary battle was set, with the possibility of the incumbent running as an independent should he lose his party’s nomination.

The year was 1982, and Prescott Bush Jr., the brother of Vice President George H. W. Bush, had thrown his hat in the ring against the maverick Sen. Lowell Weicker, despised by many in his own party for his role in Watergate and his irritating tendency to publicly defy the party and the Reagan Administration (Madden 1981).

Bush raced out to an early lead following his announcement, and some polls showed him defeating both Weicker, who would presumably run as an independent, and Democrat Toby Moffett in a three-way race (Wessel). Conservative activists cheered him on, and notable Republican strategists signed on to his campaign.

However, Bush lost the convention 65-35, and soon thereafter dropped out of the race, citing the fact that Weicker was the more electable Republican. Later polls showed Bush badly trailing Moffett in a two-way race, while Weicker was about even with him (Madden 1982). Such was the importance of Weicker’s seat to Republicans that they dared not follow their hearts. Weicker went on to defeat Moffett, but the party’s right wing would have its revenge when it supported conservative Democrat Joe Lieberman against Weicker in 1988.

So what does this tell us about our current situation? The parallels are pretty obvious: the party’s ideological base and some state party leaders are lukewarm on the incumbent, but the possibility of losing a crucial seat to the other party and a possible independent run by the incumbent may give them pause.

There are plenty of differences, too. Unlike Mr. Lamont, Mr. Bush had plenty of national political experience (he worked on his brother’s campaign in 1980, had held state and local offices, and was the son of a U.S. Senator), and was already a well-known quantity in Connecticut. Bush also had more of a command of the issues than Mr. Lamont has thus far demonstrated, although he ducked Weicker's requests for a debate.

On the other hand, no Republican of Toby Moffett’s stature has yet stepped forward to challenge Sen. Lieberman, which makes the prospect of a close two-way general election remote. In fact, since 1988, Republicans have tended to put up inexperienced sacrificial lambs instead of more well-known challengers against Lieberman and Dodd. There is no apparent rush to do anything differently this year. Therefore, the “electability” issue may very well pale before the prospect of Lieberman staying in office until at least 2012.

One thing that may work against Sen. Lieberman is the fact that, come January of next year, he will have been in office for eighteen years himself (Dodd has been in for longer, but is much more secure) and it’s looking more and more likely that the only real chance people will have for change is in the Democratic primary. Mr. Lamont may be able to take advantage of a desire for change among Democrats as well as their frustration with Sen. Lieberman.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush bowed out of the senate race long before the primary, so we have no idea whether he actually would have defeated Sen. Weicker, although polls suggest that the race was close. What Bush’s challenge does prove is that an established senator seen as out of line with the party can actually be challenged with a degree of success.


"The Ear." The Washington Post (1974-Current file) Jan 10 1982: M1.

Madden, R. L. "Liking Weicker Wasn't as Important as Needing Him." New York Times (1857-Current file) Aug 1 1982: E6.

Madden, R.L. "Prescott Bush Senate Bid seen Set." New York Times (1857-Current file) Sep 20 1981: CN22.

Ravo, Nick. “In the Heat of the Summer, Senate Race Hits a Lull.” New York Times July 10 1988.

Wessel, B. "Bush could Win in a 3-Way Race for U.S. Senate." New York Times (1857-Current file) Feb 21 1982: CN14.


Anonymous said...

Lieberman sighting

reagan dem said...

Lamont currently leading Lieberman 66 to 19 in the CT Local poll. And I thought we were a fairly moderate bunch. oh well.

Aldon Hynes said...

reagan dem: Yeah, we are a pretty moderate group here. That is why Lieberman is getting 19% of the vote. If we were a more liberal group, like over at My Left Nutmeg, Lieberman would be getting much fewer votes.

Genghis Conn said...

We are, reagan dem. A lot of more liberal folk rode in from DailyKos and Atrios over the past couple of days.

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...

I'll vouch for that, too. It's worth noting that not everyone votes in those polls. Moreover they're not the least bit scientific - they're self-selecting and thus highly biased. (Not that they aren't fun, GC!)

Anonymous said...

I hear Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has basically written Joe off. Does that make Reid a liberal? Because I always thought he was a true moderate.

Just wondering. ;)

Genghis Conn said...

Exactly so, different anonymous. They're mostly for fun, and are miles away from scientific.

daffy's back said...

Here is anothergive and take on the political spectrum from CT I just picked up. It's a report on a Shays' town meeting in Fairifeld. I won't comment and remove the illusion that I have no substance. The article actually speaks for itself anyway.

BDRubenstein888 said...

I just voted for Ned LaMont and actually felt good about my vote... can't equate what happened in 1982 or 1988 with now..each race is sui generis and rises or falls on its own merits...

I get around the Democratic base of the party and already many many town chairs and elected officials plan to vote and work for LaMont, and i understand he has received ALOT of calls from them encouraging him forward.

This vote for Senator for better or worse will be linked to the Iraw War...the vote against this war and for LaMont will be so personal,intense and meaningful to each person that i doubt Lieberman's operatives will have much luck scaring off or getting many operatives to change their position or vote..

My prediction is that this primary will be THE election for the national media to cover and i suspect Mr. LaMont and his staff fully understand this.

Genghis Conn said...


While you are correct that every race is different, part of what I do is comb through history looking for parallels and trends. You have to admit that the parallels from 1982 to our current situation are, at the very least, intriguing. History can give us a very good idea of just how a certain situation is going to shake out. For example, we can see a grim picture of where Iraq may be headed by examining the Phillipine-American War.

The 1982 race is important for Lamont to study because Lieberman is now in the same sort of situation that Weicker was then: on the outs with his own party, and more popular across the aisle.

Also, a parallel could be made between the pruning of liberal Republicans back then and of conservative Democrats now.

Genghis Conn said...


Don't know why Aldon said that, I thought your questions were good ones.

daffy said...

G.C.: thanks, I think Aldon was talking about my after the interview commentary and not my actual questions. I think he was really a little sensitive because he wants Joe out. I was joking about being hurt but I thought his comments were out of character so i said i was hurt to make a point on the blog.

I am very concerned about where the country is going. I have written about the health industry on your blog, probably as an anonymous poster, but it does concern me greatly. It's been the third rail of politcs ever since Hillary's care. I heard an interview with her on WLIW Face Off a few days ago (Long Island PBS puts CPTV - another issue - to shame)and she's aware it must be addressed. I'm no Hillary supporter but the only way big stuff like this gets tackled is by people finding common ground. John Kerry had a great approach to begin to incrementally fix the current system but he never got the message out there for a whole bunch of reasons. Everybody agrees there are problems but there is no one trying to lead the charge...

And if I took myself all that seriously I wouldn't be on here as daffy duck

BDRubenstein888 said...


Thank you for the very inciteful opinion relative to the 1982 situation..i am convinced that LaMont and his operatives will and may have already studied the 1982 race as well as the 1988 race...i was active in both....

I would forcast alot of anti-war independants will switch over to being Democrats to vote for LaMont in the primary and thus the paralell "shift" will be like the past races...having said that, it will be the unions and party activists that in the main will drive Mr. LaMont to victory as well as his own "persona".

Genghis Conn said...


There are two wild cards that weren't around in 1982: an unpopular (around here) war, and the web. Both work in Lamont's favor, guaranteeing at least a base of support and cash flow.

Aldon Hynes said...

Daffy, Genghis,

Let me apologize for my comment to Daffy earlier. I believe it is being somewhat misconstrued.

The gist of my comment is that comments in blogs are not a great venue for presenting detailed policy positions. Mr. Lamont, in my opinion, did a good job of presenting his views in this forum. My point was not that Daffy provides little value here. I believe he provides great value here and I enjoy our interactions.

However, he has not presented detailed policy positions here. Mr. Lamont probably came closer to presenting detailed policy positions here than Daffy has, I have, or most of us have.

I'll also stand by my other comment about how if Mr. Lamont had of been more detailed here he would have been accused of being too wonkish and focusing too much on specific issues, etc.

So, in closing, I mean no offence towards Daffy. I used him as an illustration of the nature of communications in blogs and it appears to have come across much harsher than I intended.

Proud Moderate Dem said...

Aldon,minor detail, neither daffy, nor yourself, are presenting yourselves as candidates for the United States Senate.

daffy 'water off my back' duck said...

Aldon: Apology accepted but totally unnecessary as far as I am concerned. I was joking when i said i was hurt; i simply thought your comments out of character and wanted to let you know.

As for me presenting my policies. Well, like i said i wanted to hear what Mr. Lamont's were because i am looking for an alterantive to Joe. And yes, I do have policies that i support but like anyone they are one from column A and one from column B, etc. of what's already out there. If you think Mr. Lamont can win without answering more power to him. W did it quite effectively. But please, don't take what I say personally. said...

Once again I reiterate my them from my comments yesterday...

Why are you putting this zeal into the Congressional campaigns where we can potentially take out one or two (hopefully three) Republicans.

The Courant is front page with stories of Simmons and Johnson having to give back Delay and Abramoff money and all the chatter is about a weak primary attempt at a sitting Democratic Senator.

Don't get me wrong, a primary can only be good for democracy in CT and I know its new and exciting, but so is a Courtney Simmons rematch.

We should all be talking about dems pledging money to get that delaty chronie Simmons out of office.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should change the name of this forum to the "Ned Lemont for Senate Blog!!" What is going on here? C'mon he's got no shot, let's talk about issues. I'm sure all the anti-gun people are celebrating the closure of Winchester. Nice job!

Anonymous said...

Congrats are in order for GC. I'm sitting here in the Uconn Law library and there are at least 6 people I can see reading your blog. None of whom I know or ever recommended it to. said...

I meant

Why aren't you putting this zeal into the Congressional campaigns where we can potentially take out one or two (hopefully three) Republicans.

and by "you" I meant the collective you and was not singleing out anyone

daffy said...

I hate to break it to MDLJFK but JFK was a neo-con in his own right. He did some great things but he was a neo-con: Bay of Pigs to Vietnam.

Genghis Conn said...


I think we tend to go a little nuts for policy positions around here. It may have been a bit much to ask that he deliver ten-point brilliant plans for everything we could think of from a guy who hasn't officially declared his candidacy yet. However, since that's what we like, that's what we expected.


I don't think anyone is happy about the closure of Winchester. I'm glad to see some people are looking to save it.,

People gravitate towards what they feel strongly about. Neither Simmons nor Shays seem to irritate Democrats as much as Joe Lieberman.

Anonymous said...


Geez, now Kennedy was a neo-con? No, he was a moderate dem---which is an endangered species around here.

TrueBlueCT said...


Please don't characterize the Dump Joe movement as a party purge. There is plenty of room for conservative Dems within the Democratic Party, (as long as they aren't selling us out to K Street lobbyists and the corporate interests they represent.)

Joe is in trouble for two reasons. One is his failure to act like a team player. The second is his ardent support for the Iraq Occupation, a position that I will argue is far from conservative. (W railed against nation-building in 2000, btw.)

The coming primary is about party discipline, as well as holding to account ALL of those who pushed for this elective war, as well as the continued occupation of Iraq.

So please don't say this is about pruning conservative Democrats, when the reality is far from that. There are no litmus tests, --except for a commitment to standing together against the Radical Right.

Chris MC said...

Can't agree Aldon. The stuff he was asked could have been responded to with cut-and-paste statements. What he offered was nothing more. Nothing I asked, for example, wasn't based on something he hasn't already said he is about. No curveballs.

He gave nothing on the "active policy wonk at Brookings" for example. Coulda done something with that.

He gave nothing on health care. He shoulda (/you shoulda made sure he) had a hundred and fifty words in a document ready to go.

Sorry, but it is really a no-pass.

All in all, this being Februrary - and I say this wanting very much a real debate rather than a coronation with some jeering from the peanut gallery - this doesn't appear to have any legs.

But, prove me wrong.

BTW - Daffy has it right, albeit a bit simplified. The neo-cons are JFK Democrats who left the party, to a significant extent. However, tying JFK to them validates nothing whatsoever. It isn't clear at all where a JFK would be today. Remember, Bobby wasn't the Bobby we remember in 1961. OTOH Ted has always been Ted. ;-) said...

Neo Con doesn't fit as a title, we were in the middle of the cold war and there was a clear definition of who the enemy was and a clear policy on containment. A Neo Conservative, on the other hand, has a world view seeks to "liberate" parts of the world through the guise of democracy in order to capitalize on the economic and natural resourses available there. Essential its a move to make America a democratic colonial empire. I don't think JFK was anywhere near a neo-con.

JFK was a DLC democrat as far as I am concerend. He worked for improved civil rights for all Americans (albeit largely by circumstance and the proding of his brother)yet he also the biggest tax cut in history (before W. came along, the difference with the Kennedy tax cut was that it raised business taxes and cut taxes primarily on the growing middle class and on the poor.)

JFK was a Democrat in the mold of Truman and Roosevelt, Socialy Progressive, Fiscally Responsible, and Conservative in Foreign Affairs: Ergo, a moderate democrat.

Proud Moderate Dem said...

TrueBlue, do you recomend primarying all Dems who voted for the war then? by the way, this federal budget they will be voting on in Feb makes some drastic cuts to student loans which i find deplorable.

TrueBlueCT said...


There is a difference between authorizing the use of force with your backs to the wall, (W didn't have the good grace to hold the vote after the November elections, as his Daddy did), and rushing the country into an elective war based on fear and a bucket of half-truths.

There is also an element of truth to Kerry's claim that if he had been in charge of the experiment, it wouldn't be so effed up as it is under Bush & Co.

Their is a heck of a lot of difference between the range of Democratic opinions regarding what to do now, and the Wall Street Journal piece that Joe published in late November.

But you know all this already. The Democrats are not responsible for Iraq, and you are just pushing your illogic, (false dichotomy?), because you can't argue substantively..

Proud Moderate Dem said...

TrueBlue, the following is from The New Republic which admittingly is moderate but still makes some valid points.

What Joe leiberman said:

"If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there [in Iraq] by the end of 2006 or 2007."

Compare that with Wesley Clark, who proposes a 30,000 troop drawdown but opposes "a pullout until the job is done." Or John Kerry, who wants to bring the "vast majority of American troops home" in 2006, but only if certain benchmarks are met. Or antiwar crusader Russ Feingold, who aspires to bring all U.S. troops home by the end of 2006, but--again--only if various criteria are fulfilled.

The substantive Iraq divide inside the Democratic Party isn't between Lieberman and everyone else. It's between Lieberman, Clark, Kerry, and Feingold on the one hand (who hope to bring troops home quickly, but not if it means all hell breaking loose) and Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha (who want to bring troops home as soon as possible, no matter what). The rest is rhetorical window dressing: Kerry and Feingold offer aggressively optimistic assumptions about when Iraq's government and military can stand on their own; Lieberman is more cautious. "
taken from
Peter Beinhart
The New Republic Online, jan 5, 2006

as i have said before, i have been against the war from the beginning, but also realize we need to be fair in assessing the different dems views. as for your accusation that i cannot argue substantively, i will take that with a grain of salt from someone who thinks our public servants in the united states senate should be elected based on of they are loyal and show up in cafes. maybe my black lab does have a chance after all....

daffy duck said...

I'm not trying to reinvent history and personally I hate labels (like neo-con) but JFK, egged on by the CIA, figured if he went after Castro at the Bay of Pigs, he could stop the USSR's spread of its communist stuff, which all thought was bad, but...history.... And escalating Vietnam was JFK's way to show he was no wimp... Was he moderate in other ways? YES.

TrueBlueCT said...

None of the guys you cite, Kerry, Clark, etc, etc, has had the gall to back-up President Bush on his disastrous foreign policy. Joe, on the other hand, certainly has, and quite vocally.

If Senator Lieberman could keep his mouth shut, and not undermine the Democratic message, there would be no primary. Alas, that is not the case.

If you want to bring up Peter Beinhart, please read this. Many of us believe him to be an utter joke, at least when it comes to Iraq.

The real policy difference is if we want to signal to Iraqis that we don't intend to occupy there country on an open-ended basis, as opposed to those who want us there indefinitely. Murtha is calling for a redeployment to Kuwait, and not for the abandonment of all military action.

There is an alternate reading to history which says that if JFK had survived, we would have avoided our nation's first war loss. In any case, I think you have to credit LBJ and McNamara with the Vietnam build-up, which didn't really escalate until 1964-65.

Proud Moderate dem said...

TrueBlue, from its inception to present, there has been far from a clear dem message on Iraq. and i agree with you, Iraq was wrong but we need to be smart about how we get out now that we are in. we need to deal with realities, not hypotheticals. i am aware of the dailykos comments on the article i cited, however, i just disagree with their assessment.

Chris1 said...

Interesting. Connecticut Conservative has a recent post on this very topic, analysis of Lamont, especially regarding the Q and A of yesterday. Check it out.

Anonymous said...

Where was Ned Lamont all those years when Senator Lieberman was protecting us from Newt Gingrich's attacks on our Social Security?

I thought I remember Lamont working as an advisor for Republican Treasurer Christopher Burnham during the great losses of Connecticut state pension funds. Oh I forgot, Lamont was supposed to be our "progressive" candidate...

ctkeith said...

my take,

1)Ned Lamont must be an amazing guy.He spotted the guy with the napoleon complex (chris mc) and chose to ignore his question rather than give his ego encouragement.

2)The failure of the technology used proved my post from yesterday was corresct.If GC can't improve on the format here most serious bloggers and candidates will stop taking this site seriously.There was no "flow" to the conversation and that was in nobodys interest.

3)Ned Lamont has now taken more questions from the Public in one week than Joementum has in at least 2 yrs.
We now have a choice between a grumpy old guy who is a total beltway whore and if he had his choice would never return to this state or a rather young and sucessful moderate buisnessman who will use his office to promote universal healthcare and a progressive agenda while demanding fiscal responsibility.

I have to admit my dream of finding the next Paul Wellstone for a run for senate in 06 will probably go unfulfilled but voting for Ned Lamont instead of Joe Leberman will be a very sweet pleasure.


Chris MC said...

Another utterly predictable rant, Keith, thanks.

The next time you grant a valid point will be the first time. And the next time you soberly raise one will be the first.

It's pretty amusing that you've already attempted to anoint Lamont not only the presumptive nominee, but king maker on the gubernatorial race.

Ned consistently failed to respond effectively, even to the softballs you guys fed him. What was the point? Taking questions but failing to respond isn't a plus.

Until the candidate (and he said clearly in his posts that he is running) and his coterie of cheerleaders here can get a better act together then, unfortunately, we aren't going to have much of a debate.

Genghis Conn said...


As you'll recall, I don't get paid for this. There are, by my choice, no advertisements on this site (nor would I see much in the way of money if there were). As a technology upgrade would doubtless cost money that I don't have, what do you suggest I do?

daffy duck said...

no argument that LBJ escalated it but JFK enhanced it way beyond what Eisenhower did and kennedy enhanced it to show he was no wimp after he screwed up at the bay of Pigs. The events that led LBJ to escalate ite would probably have given JFK the same decision but who knows.