Did moderation win?
Murphy is almost certainly more liberal than Courtney, but he had the luxury of an opponent who veered hard to the right and ran one of the most negative, stomach-churning campaigns in the country. Jodi Rell is certainly a moderate, and Connecticut voters seem to like that just fine. Joe Lieberman seemed to connect with voters despite his less-than-moderate stand on the Iraq War, not because of it. In fact, it was mainly his insistence that he was a champion of bipartisanship and moderation that saved him and ultimately doomed Ned Lamont, who was painted as being too liberal.
I've said before that the narrative of 2008 is not going to be extreme partisanship, but moderation and unity. That starts now. E.J. Dionne seems to think so, too (emphasis mine):
American voters, in their wisdom, ended an era on Tuesday. They rejected a poorly conceived war policy in Iraq that has weakened the United States. They rejected a harshly ideological approach to politics that cast opponents as enemies of the country's survival. They rejected a president so determined to win an election that he was willing to slander his opponents by saying: "The Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses." The voters decided there was no decency in that.
And no longer will we pay attention to political strategists who assert that swing voters aren't important and that independents and moderates don't matter. If Democrats are to make good use of the power they have been granted, they need to remember that last point. This election was the revenge of the center no less than it was the revenge of the left. The decisive votes cast on Tuesday came from moderates and independents, whom the exit polls showed favoring Democratic House candidates by about 3 to 2. (Dionne)
If the Democrats don't have the good sense to govern from the middle and forge productive and sensible compromises with a (hopefully) humbled President Bush, then they don't deserve the power they've been given. This is not a mandate for liberal programs and policies--it's a mandate for the middle of the road.
The lesson of 2006: partisanship above all else simply doesn't work, and, given enough time, voters will not stand for it.
Here's to a new era. I hope it lasts a while.
Dionne, E.J. "Meeting at The Middle." Washington Post 9 November, 2006.