By this point, there's enough out there on the web and in the news about the remarkable showing of Ned Lamont at Friday's convention that I don't have to retell the story. It's enough to say that it was a shock to the Lieberman campaign and the Democratic Party's leadership, and a huge boost for the committed, passionate supporters of Ned Lamont.
How much of a victory was it?
When was the last time a guy who just lost the endorsement by 33% of the vote walked out of the hall to be mobbed by an intense group of supporters, all chanting "Ned! Ned! Ned!" as if they'd just buried Joe Lieberman in a landslide? When was the last time a double-digit margin of victory left supporters feeling deflated and worried?
The Lieberman campaign sent out a triumphant email on Saturday proclaiming a huge win, but most people who watch politics know better. Lieberman may still win the primary and the election, but his standing among many Democrats has been cut off at the knees. It really wasn't supposed to happen this way. Lamont was expected to claw his way to 15%, and not get much more than that. Lieberman supporters were expecting their man to crush him.
It didn't happen.
Big labor showed up in force for Lieberman (and for DeStefano), heavy-hitters like Chris Dodd lionized him in speeches and the leadership seemed to be giving the incumbent senator their support. Normally, that would work.
But this year, organized labor didn't have much of an impact for either Lieberman or DeStefano. People talked through Chris Dodd's speech (I couldn't hear a lot of it, people were talking so loudly) and when Dodd exhorted his fellow Democrats to "Stand up for Joe Lieberman," urging them to get out of their seats, only about half did. At the end of the speech, Dodd received tepid, polite applause from those who were listening.
When the vote was taken, it seemed like Lamont's votes were coming from all over the place. A wide majority of towns had at least one Lamont voter in them: only 34, by my count, cast all of their votes for Lieberman.
The message seemed to be that a lot of the Democratic delegates had lost faith in their leaders. Instead of being told what to do by the leadership, and then doing it, they were acting on their own. This is not the way party politics is supposed to work!
One of the effects of the Lamont campaign may be that the Democratic Party becomes more, well, democratic. The old machine structure of the party has long been in decline--maybe this will be the final nail in its coffin. This election year is shaping up to be about change. Voters desperately want something to change in this country, and they don't trust their leaders to make it happen. Maybe we saw a little of that desire, and where it could lead us, Friday night.