A few weeks ago, I appeared at an event with Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont (D) to discuss my new book Hostile Takeover in New Haven. Soon after, I was asked by the Hartford Courant -- Connecticut's biggest paper -- to write an op-ed about the upcoming Democratic Senate primary between Lamont and incumbent Joe Lieberman, which the paper printed in today's Sunday edition. You can read it here.
The basic point in this piece is simple: Joe Lieberman has become a part of the Establishment that has perpetrated a hostile takeover of our government, and the upcoming primary is a way for voters in Connecticut to fight the hostile takeover and take their government back.
Some Washington operatives have whined and cried about Lieberman getting a primary. They seem to think that Democrats should never be held accountable, even when they sell out their constituents. But that's antithetical to what democracy is supposed to be about. When a U.S. Senator starts using their Senate seat to advocate policies that only a small cadre of Washington insiders supports -- policies that the vast majority of the public opposes -- voters should take back the Senate seat that they own and hand it over to someone else. Many Senators think their Senate seats are their property -- they are not. They are the property of the people. And no matter how nice or friendly they may be, when they start using the power the people gave them to push policies that the people fundamentally oppose, it means they've lost touch and gone Washington in the worst way.
Lieberman -- who the media inaccurately portrays as a "centrist" -- is the most high-profile example of a Senator who has gone Washington, and who represents not the center -- but the positions of a tiny minority of Washington insiders who have marginalized the American people from our political process. As the op-ed points out, he now regularly uses Connecticut's Senate seat to push policies that makes lobbyists and insiders in Washington happy, but that Connecticut and the American public clearly oppose. He may be a nice guy, but we live in a democracy where niceness is supposed to come second to positions and policy in elections.
This dynamic, of course, is playing out in other races as well. As just one example, here in Montana, Senate Democratic nominee Jon Tester (D) is making the powerful point that incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns (R) has totally lost touch. Burns is the guy who actually said "most [people without health care] elect to be uninsured" even as reports from his own state's government noted that "being uninsured [in Montana] is not voluntary, with 90 percent of the uninsured reporting being unable to buy health insurance after paying for food, clothing, and shelter." Burns -- like Lieberman -- is a Senator who has become so immersed in Washington's corrupt culture, he thinks there's nothing wrong with using the people's Senate seat to push policies that the people oppose.
Again, these people may or may not be nice, or humorous or folksly or back-slapping -- that's not the point. At the end of the day, elections are about whether the incumbent in office is representing the people in the way they vote in Congress, and in the way they use their office's platform to educate the public about what's going on in our political system.
I wrote Hostile Takeover to try to force the political Establishment to start addressing the critical economic issues and the political corruption that surrounds them. The book is meant to help good people -- whether activists, candidates, or just interested citizens -- start fighting back. The Connecticut primary is shaping up to be a place where voters will finally have the chance to fight back against the hostile takeover at the polls. It is shaping up to be an exercise in what democracy is supposed to be all about: throwing out incumbents who ignore the will of the people.
UPDATE: I hadn't seen this earlier - but the Hartford Courant also ran a piece defending Lieberman, authored by the DLC's Marshall Wittman and Steven J. Nider. Wittman is a former top Republican operative and Christian Coalition official, while Nider was one of the major "Democratic" apologists for the Iraq War. They predictably regurgitate the fallacy that Lieberman is a "centrist" - and then these two well-known right-wingers from Washington, D.C. proceed to try to lecture Connecticut Democratic primary voters about how Joe Lieberman is supposedly the reincarnation of John F. Kennedy.
I swear - sometimes it is really just incredibly amazing how arrogant these out-of-touch, Beltway-insulated Establishment apologists are, how stupid they think the public is - and how they are willing to embarrass themselves by so publicly expressing those traits in print. But what's perhaps even more incredible is how Lieberman's most public defenders in his Democratic primary race are a top GOP operative/former Christian Coalition official and another guy who worked to deflate Democratic Party opposition to the Iraq War. That should tell Democratic primary voters everything they need to know about who Joe Lieberman really works for. It should also raise the very real question: is this the first public statement of Joe
Lieberman's decision to leave the Democratic Party before the primary happens and run as an independent, so as to avoid being embarrassed at the polls? After all, the Cook Report recently noted that Lieberman "vowed" to run as an independent - is this what this op-ed is all about?