Sunday, August 06, 2006

Joemeltdown

The 2006 Democratic senatorial primary will be much studied by political scientists in the future, because it has shown how an incumbent with a 46% lead over his unknown opponent could squander every advantage given by incumbency.

Surrogates are supporters of candidates who speak on their behalf, promoting their candidacy through reputation economics. The hope is that the positive advocacy of well-known figures will osmotically bless the candidate with good feelings, votes to follow.

Ned Lamont had a scheduled campaign stop at Ted's Cheeseburgers. Unfortunately he found covert Lieberman operatives waiting for the chance to smear. A large man, around 50 years old or so, then started screaming at Ned, "Are you an Al Sharpton Democrat, or a Bill Clinton Democrat?" Lamont and his press secretary attempted to interrupt while the owners of the restaurant were horrified and embarrassed. Then Ned Lamont went up to the few people in regular clothes and introduced himself, even as the Lieberman supporters kept screaming. He also tried to introduce himself to the Lieberman staffers. It grew so vitrolic Lamont was forced to leave. The harassment followed him outside.
Who was this mystery heckler? Reports quickly surfaced that this man was named Richard Goodstein. Who is Goodstein? As Julian Sanchez notes over at Reason's Hit & Run blog:
Goodstein seems to make his living off just a couple major clients: the printer company Lexmark and Pennsylvania-based Air Products and Chemicals, which among other things is a major supplier to the semiconductor industry. Air Products' former chairman, Howard Wagner, now sits on the board of Lieberman's second largest donor, Connecticut-based United Technologies (though boards are such a musical-chairs affair that this probably doesn't mean much in itself). More to the point, Joe Lieberman has been one of the most vocal supporters in the Senate of government subsidies to and partnerships with the semiconductor industry, which (through its trade association) gave the Senator an award for his efforts on their behalf back in 2001. The company has also been expanding its nanotechnology division, another hobbyhorse of Lieberman's. The top press release on the front page of Air Products' site right now is an announcement of a profitable licensing deal with the University of Connecticut for a technology that will help in the development of next-generation video displays. So it certainly makes sense that Goodstein's main client would have an interest in keeping Lieberman, whose pet issue happens to be their industry, in office.
As for the next step after the primary, Salon offers this quote about the Fox News Democrat:
"My guess," Kenneth Dautrich, a professor of political science at the University of Connecticut says, "is that once this primary's over you'll see him back on Fox real quickly because there's a weak Republican candidate who's running, independent voters are not averse to Fox, and the Democrats are going to be going with Lamont. The nature of the voters in the general election would suggest that he will do well by going back to Fox."
Why is Lieberman refusing to even discuss this oh-so-principled stand for the Iraq War? Here's Andrew Sullivan's theory:
My guess is that he's still lobbying hard to replace Rumsfeld later this year and, by all accounts, probably will.
One final point from Matt Tabbibi in Rolling Stone on cheap rhetorical tricks:
Brooks's column of a few weeks ago on the subject of Lieberman/Lamont, titled "The Liberal Inquisition," was a masterpiece of yuppie paranoia. In an editorial line that would be repeated by other writers all across the country, Brooks blasted the "netroots" supporters of Lamont for being leftist extremists driven by "moral manias" and "mob psychology" to liquidate the "scarred old warhorse" Lieberman, whom he calls "transparently the most kind-hearted and well-intentioned of men." This is the archetypal suburban-conservative nightmare -- anonymous hordes of leftist boat-rockers viciously assaulting the champion of the decent people, who is just a really nice guy given to tending his lawn and minding his own business.

But the most objectionable thing about the Brooks column was its crude parroting of a suspiciously similar DLC editorial published about a month before (See Road Rage, from the August 10th, 2006, issue of Rolling Stone) entitled "The Return of Liberal Fundamentalism." Both columns described Lamont's Internet supporters as "fundamentalist" liberals bent on a "purge" of poor nice old Joe Lieberman, who represents heterodoxy, centrism and bipartisanship. Brooks used the word "purge" twice; the author of the DLC column, Ed Kilgore, used it eight times.
Let's be clear about what we're dealing with here. These people are professional communicators. They don't repeatedly use words like "purge" and "fundamentalist" -- terms obviously associated with communism and Islamic terrorism -- by accident. They know exactly what they're doing. It's an authoritarian tactic and it should piss you off.

"So let me get this straight," I said. "We have thirty corporate-funded spokesmen telling hundreds of thousands of actual voters that they're narrow dogmatists?"
And they say the bloggers are angry...

UPDATE:
A great outsider perspective from the UK Guardian:
Lieberman's colleagues duly rounded on him. But his real crime was to give explicit voice to their spinelessness. In truth, only a handful had expressed anything but token opposition to the war and even fewer had set out a clear alternative for fear of being branded unpatriotic. They were mad because Lieberman blew their cover. What this race has really exposed is not a rift between him and the Democratic establishment, which has now closed ranks to back him, but between the establishment and both its base and the nation at large.

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