Members of no organized political party: Democrats

We’ll compare and contrast op-eds this morning (and then tell you why both are right for the wrong reasons!) The first is by TNR‘s Jonathan Chait in the Los Angeles Times, concerning why Democrats are… misguided… to try to oust Senator Joe “Joementum” Lieberman. The second is by the Daily Kos‘s blogging sensation Markos Moulitsas writing in the Washington Post concerning why Hillary Clinton can’t win.
Chait’s basic premise and Moulitsas’ (btw, it appears that letting Kos have an op-ed may be the beginnings of “pay-back” for the Ben Domenech fiasco… just sayin’…) are more or less opposite sides of the same coin. Chait fears that the “left-wing extremists” are trying to hijack the party by savaging poor Joe Lieberman, who’s really a moderate, and except for his strong “pro-Empire” stance on the Iraq war, a pretty straightforward Dem. Moulitsas approaches Hillary from the same direction: Hillary is nobody’s liberal, and, like Lieberman himself in the ’04 election (along with Kerry and Gephardt) is a stodgy insider who is not liked by the “net-roots” (meaning Markos himself, and others who have been adept at raising money on the internet, purportedly from activists, but really from moderates; my own positions have gone from “center-right” to “left to hard left” in just over 6 or 7 years, all without my views moving!)
Interestingly, both are correct, but for exactly the wrong reasons: Dems should leave Joe-mentum alone, and Dems should desert Hillary like the political leper she is. But for different reasons.
Simple, practical reason for Joe-mentum: there is a finite amount of money and energy available for Congressional candidates in Connecticut; there are Republican House members in Connecticut who are takeable. If and when the Democratic challengers there had comfortable war-chests and comfortable leads, then I would say maybe we could afford the luxury of an internal urinating contest over Lieberman (who, quite frankly, is hardly any more conservative than Harry Reid, Joe Biden, or Hillary Clinton for that matter.) But, as usual, it looks to me that Dems are making the usual mistake of falling for celebrity and the “coolness” of the senate, and forgetting that the House is (1) more important and (2) more potentially takeable than the senate, at least in ’06. Hence, prioritizing is essential. Millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours spent supporting Ned Lamont to take on Joe will not be available to Dem Congressional challengers Joe Courtney, Chris Murphy or Diane Farrell, all of whom are credible challengers; three House seats in Connecticut alone would represent a huge leg up toward taking back the just over a dozen seats needed to take control of the House. Short answer: “disciplining” Joe Lieberman is a luxury we can’t afford.
As to Hillary, let me get right to it: I dislike her for the same reason I originally disliked George W. Bush. She brings little or nothing to the table save her very famous name. She has proven an adept politician at aggrandizing herself, but has virtually no legislative record benefitting her constituency (a/k/a my state), and has been, as Markos observes, anything but a “party leader”. But the short answer to the problem with her presidential aspirations is simple math: what state that George W. Bush won against Al Gore (or for that matter, John Kerry) will– or can– Hillary Clinton win? Without pickups, she cannot be elected President. Period. Evan Bayh from Indiana or Mark Warner from Virginia, aside from not being national polarizing figures, at least put their own states into play. Al Gore himself could symbolize “national buyers’ regret” especially in Florida. But Hillary Clinton? Can she pick up West Virginia, or Arkansas, or Florida, let alone Missouri or Ohio (or Indiana or Virginia)? Sorry… I just don’t see it.
And there you have it. Both Chait and Kos grossly overstate the importance of the “net-roots” or the “hard-left” or whatever you call them. Kos, for example, has a notoriously piss-poor record of getting Congressional members elected, for example… which isn’t to downplay what the 20-something guy has accomplished, which is amazing… I merely point out that we should face reality. The “net-roots” (save for the amazing are just not ready for prime time. Yet. It’s coming… but not yet.
The typical “lefty” now is someone like myself… whose views were not lefty at all when Bill Clinton was President. It’s just in the current loyalist lunacy, even sanity is considered disloyal to the Empire (which I readily admit is a problem for Joe-mentum, who values his loyalty to the Emperor above almost all else.) Chait (surprise, suprise) has his head up his ass on this: there is no hard left with any significant presence in the Democratic Party. Russ Feingold or Barbara Boxer are simply functioning human beings– more in tune to how most people feel– rather than crazed Bolsheviks, as Chait intimates.
Anyway, we have to scan the entire playing field, win what we can win, and not waste energy where we can’t. And there you have it.