The movie "Clue" is one of my favorites, in part, because the viewer gets to see three possible endings all in a row. So in that same Clue-like vein, I want to offer my thoughts on the possible outcomes of the Lieberman-Lamont primary. Though the election will take place tomorrow, it's obvious today what will take place under all of the possible outcomes (except, maybe for Florida 2000-style outcome - that's a real wildcard). So without further ado, I will lay out my predictions starting with Lieberman winning big and going to Lamont winning big.
1. Lieberman wins by more than 10 points: Champagne purchases in Washington, D.C. skyrocket, as the professional Democratic Party apparatus (ie. consultants, Hill staffers, think tankers, etc.) collectively celebrates the perception that they still do not have to worry at all about small-d democracy threatening their cushy lifestyles. Pundits like Cokie Roberts and Stu Rothenberg and neoconservatives Iraq War apologists like Robert Kagan, Peter Beinart, Al From, Marshall Wittman and other chickenhawk members of the 101st Fighting Keyboard Brigade clink glasses at restaurants like the Capital Grille. In gulping down their Chardonnay, they praise the Almighty for protecting one of their own and for making sure more American soldiers are forced to die for the lies these pundits and neocons helped create from the comfortable confines of their air conditioned offices. Another luncheon is scheduled at the Washington Court Hotel, where D.C.'s big lobbyists, moneymen, and other assorted whores gather to sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" to their buddy Joe, who will be returning to Congress to reward them with his usual slew of special legislative favors and votes. Columnists, pundits and reporters then proceed to write columns and articles letting everyone know that the Republic can now go on, thanks to the fact that Lieberman and his $10 million corporate-funded warchest were able to buy the election. Bloggers, activists, and voters themselves are repeatedly attacked as terrorist insurgents who - thank God - were vanquished at the hands of "last honest man'" in the world. That "last honest man's" open lying will be forgotten, as will the fact that as an 18-year incumbent he never should have received a primary. Instead, there will be more "how dare yous!" aimed at the Democratic Party's own base, various sighs of relief on K Street that the pay-to-play system of buying elections has been preserved, and a false sense of calm among D.C. insiders that they still get to treat America's political process as their exclusive gated community. Meanwhile, the divide in the Democratic Party will grow far worse, as voters will feel that, once again, the Democratic Party apparatus was complicit in helping a Big Money candidate to buy an election and distort the debate over critical issues like the Iraq War.
2. Lieberman barely wins (less than 10 points): Again, champagne purchases in the Beltway are high, and Rothenberg, Roberts, Kagan, Beinart and the DLC crowd begin calling all of their reporter friends telling them in coded language that this means that ordinary voters still - thankfully - have no say in their own political process. They proceed to ignore polls clearly showing where the real center of American politics is and instead claim that Lieberman's right-wing, sellout politics represents the real "center." But, in the back of their minds, they know that something big is happening, and that a real small-d democratic power is building through the progressive movement. Though the Beltway never admits so in public, they know in the places they don't talk about at parties that the progressive movement has etched a very real win. To get this close to an 18-year incumbent in such a short period of time is a huge accomplishment - and every Democratic incumbent in Congress knows that, even if they won't say it publicly. Again, the divide in the Democratic Party grows between ordinary voters and the elite insiders who hang onto power by virtue of their well-developed connections to Big Money.
3. Lamont ekes out a win (less than 4 points): Xanax and Prozac fly off the shelves of DC pharmacies, as the Democratic Party Establishment goes into a depression because it realizes it no longer gets to give orders from Mt. Olympus. Lieberman, who for weeks has been trying to downplay expectations, cites the closeness of the results as a reason to go ahead with an Independent Lieberman for Lieberman bid, even though the fact that he - an 18-year incumbent with a massive warchest - should have won by a huge margin, and his loss is a clear repudiation of his corruption and his dishonesty. Though Lieberman's move threatens the Democratic Party's hold on the Connecticut Senate seat, and though Democratic voters have made themselves clear, at least some of Lieberman's Senate Democratic buddies decide to continue backing him, as does his wide network of Enron lobbyists, corporate lawyers and other professional business shills in D.C. Roberts, Rothenberg, Beinart, Kagan and the DLC continue filling newspapers and the airwaves with whines about Lieberman being a "nice guy" who is under an anti-semitic, anti-American terrorist-like attack from "elitist insurgent" activists and voters they liken to Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden and Lucifer himself. Former Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy can be heard applauding the slandering from his grave. These elitists then beg and plead Lieberman to ignore primary voters and keep running like a sore-loser - likely part of an already-prepared collusion with the campaign to create a "Draft Poor Persecuted Joe" feeling. Nonetheless, every Democratic officeholder in America realizes how totally out of touch Washington pundits/operatives really are and how important the progressive movement is. They quickly internalize the truism that Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D) had the courage to already admit: "Being a rubber stamp for George Bush is politically dangerous to life threatening." The divide in the Democratic Party has a chance to be bridged, but the insistence by some Democratic incumbents and moneyed interests to keep pushing Lieberman's candidacy unfortunately preserves the fault line.
4. Lamont wins big (by more than 5 points): Again, Xanax and Prozac fly off the shelves of DC pharmacies, though this time so does Immodium, because the Democratic Party elites get so scared, they collectively and uncontrollably begin soiling their pants. Incumbents begin worrying about whether their votes to sell out to Big Money or to preserve the Bush administration's "stay-the-course" nonsense in Iraq will draw them a serious primary challenge. Suddenly, votes by the Democratic caucus in both the House and Senate become far more unified. Instead of huge numbers of Democrats undermining their party on core economic and national security issues, there is more party discipline than has been seen in a long time because suddenly, every Democratic lawmaker realizes that they, too, might have to actually answer to voters. Roberts, Rothenberg, Beinart, Kagan and the DLC display spasms of the kind of vituperative anger/dishonesty they've been showing throughout the campaign - anger that shows they secretly realize how insignificant they are. They declare that the United States of America as we know it is headed for apocalypse and that the world is coming to an end because their cocktail party friend "Joe" - the faux "centrist" - was attacked by terrorists. Rothenberg develops big circles under his eyes because he can no longer sleep anymore with the knowledge that he has no relevance. Beinart, meanwhile, still refuses to enlist to fight in the war he pushed so aggressively, and instead is seen every now and again trying to elbow his way to the front row of Washington's uncountable think tank panel events, yet he is never called on during the Q&A sessions because he can't stop mumbling to himself about "crazies," Michael Moore, Moveon, "purges" and "goddammit I'm was once a Rhodes scholar so that means everyone should kiss my ass and listen to me no matter how many times I get it wrong!" The "how dare yous" echo throughout K Street. But because Lieberman has lost so badly, their temper tantrums are laughed at by the public, who - despite being belittled by Washington - has long been against the Iraq War and for far more populist policies than what's being acted on in Congress. Similarly, the screams by the pundit and insider class will be laughed at by any serious observers of politics, who understand that the fact that Lamont even got close in the race was a huge accomplishment. Despite begging from Lieberman's chief of staff-turned-Enron lobbyist Michael Lewan, Lieberman drops his bid for a "Lieberman for Lieberman" independent candidacy not because he's not a sore loser - but because most other Democratic politicians are embarrassed to be around him after such a shellacking. Interestingly, Lamont goes on to be a vehicle for helping heal some of the divisions in the Democratic Party. Because Lamont is no firebrand and because he won by pushing positions at the real center of public opinion, more Democratic insiders realize their fight against ordinary citizens is a losing battle and realize their careers are about to be cut short lest they change their ways. Thanks to this change, the Democratic Party actually start winning national elections for the first time in a generation.
Here's the deal folks: No matter what the outcome tomorrow - and I sure am hoping Lamont wins - we should all remember that last point: the fact that Ned Lamont and the progressive movement have mounted such a serious challenge to an entrenched incumbent with such a massive corporate-backed warchest is a HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT. In the course of just a few months, a guy who has never run for office took on one of the most well-funded, insulated politicians in America, who used all of his clout and cashed in all of his favors to get other Big Time members of the Establishment to help him. If Ned gets within 15 points of Lieberman, it is a display of real strength, and it is a major step forward in our movement.
Remember - movements take time. If Ned loses, the media and Democratic "strategists" will put out all sorts of stories patting themselves on the back and pretending that nothing serious really happened. The louder their claims like that, the more we should all know that we've already won a big battle - no matter what the outcome tomorrow. Again, it is crucially, crucially important for everyone to do whatever they can tomorrow to get as many votes out for Lamont - but don't forget what we've already accomplished: it's no small feat.