Feingold Gets it Right on Lieberman
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 10:18:30 AM EDT
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning, Russ Feingold was thrown an important question on the issue of the Connecticut Democratic Senatorial primary. From the transcript:
MR. RUSSERT: Your colleague Joe Lieberman in Connecticut in a tough primary battle. If Senator Lieberman asks you to come to Connecticut to campaign for him, will you?
SEN. FEINGOLD: I have a lot of admiration for Joe. He's a fine guy. He helped me a great deal in campaign finance reform. I think Ned Lamont's positions on the issues are much closer to mine on the critical issues. I think that this is going to be something decided by the people of Connecticut. I'm not going to go up there, but I'll tell you this, Tim. I will support the Democratic nominee, whoever that is.
MR. RUSSERT: So if Lamont beats Lieberman, you're for Lamont.
SEN. FEINGOLD: That's correct.
MR. RUSSERT: And you will not campaign for Lieberman if they ask you?
SEN. FEINGOLD: I'm not getting involved in the primary. If Joe Lieberman wins the primary, I campaign for him. If Ned Lamont wins the primary, I campaign for him. I'll be supporting the Democrat. [emphasis added]
Simply put, Russ Feingold hit the ball out of the park with his answer to this question.
I can understand the reluctance of Senate Democrats -- many of whom have served alongside Joe Lieberman for close to two decades -- to openly state a willingness to oppose him. For many, this would be a betrayal of the worst kind.
But what some of these Democratic Senators do not understand that the first step in the betrayal would be for Senator Lieberman to begin collecting signatures to appear on the ballot as an independent -- a step he has not yet undertaken, but one which is by no means out of the realm of possibility.
I can also understand Senate Democrats' concern that the defeat of Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary would send certain signals to the American people. After all, the establishment press would certainly report a Lieberman loss in the primary as an indication that the Democrats are weak-kneed on national security, right? And what could be worse than that?
But this point of view mistakenly overlooks the inherent purpose of elections, and primary elections, in particular. What does the Democratic Party stand for if not democracy? What is the purpose of the Democratic Party if not to represent millions of generally like-minded individuals?
Senator Feingold gets it. This is not about betraying a member of the Senate Democratic caucus or about sending the right or wrong signal to the Beltway press. This is about democracy in action. This is about allowing Democratic voters, and not the party bosses, decide the fate of the party. And no matter how the Democratic electorate in Connecticut votes in August -- whether it is to renominate Joe Lieberman for a fourth time or to give Ned Lamont the opportunity to run in the general election -- Democrats should, just like Russ Feingold, pledge to support the Democratic nominee.