Dismantling the Liebermachine

I find it quite ironic that those best positioned to understand the implications of Lieberman's downfall are the most apt to describe the race as unimportant or meaningless instead of the momentus event it really is.  I would throw into this TPM reader DK, who see this race as just one more D seat in the Senate.

It's not.  You see, Capitol Hill is a small place, and it's a place where there's a certain incestuous cycle of staffers, lobbyists, journalists, and politicians.  It's a community, with its own rules about who you can talk to, what can be said in polite company, and who you can bribe.  There's a partisan divide, sure, but there's a much bigger divide between those on the inside of the Hill and those of us who aren't.  We get our news from the New York Times, but they know the personalities involved and the real story.  Many Dodd staffers were Lieberman staffers, and vice versa.  Puncturing this bubble is a really big deal, because it changes how laws are passed.

Every bill that comes before the House and Senate faces a clear set of right-wing pressure points.  The first and most powerful one is the Republican K-Street Project, which can whip all Republicans very quickly and effectively in the House, and nearly as quickly in the Senate.  This is the machine that forces Republicans to obey the wishes of a right-wing leadership class, through the carrot of cushy corporate jobs and the stick of vicious primary challenges from the Club for Growth.

On the Democratic side, the pressure is just as intense, but more subtle.  When a bill is introduced, a network of consultants, most of whom have corporate clients, begin to chatter about how taking a liberal position could weaken the Democratic Party.  This is supplemented with a strong PR strategy by right-wing temporary coalition groups who put out networks of surrogates and ads to create a powerfully framed environment.  Then business lobbyists come and visit Congressional offices, and make threats, attempt legislative bribes, or put out false but extremely persuasive pieces of information.  There is often little real counterpressure, because liberal single issue groups have decided not to hold politicians accountable and do not cooperate with each other on issues not directly related to their vertical.  

Within the Democratic party, resisting a bill is an exercise in holding the caucus together.  The long minority status of the Democratic Party has allowed the development of bad faith actors within the caucus, who cut deals with right-wing groups and sabotage any possibility of resistance.  Al Wynn is one such actor; Joe Lieberman is another.  On key vote after key vote, these actors have sabotaged the progressive position through fake bipartisanship.  It's no surprise that Lieberman's former chief of staff was a lobbyist for Enron; Lieberman himself is responsible for many of the corporate accounting scandals over the years because of his embrace of various financial lobbies.

One irony of the Lieberman race is that all the single-issue groups have endorsed Lieberman, and if you look at donations, so have the lobbyists.  Indeed, this isn't a fight between 'the left' and 'the right' as it is traditionally defined, since no one would put NARAL on the right or even in the center.  This is about creating a disincentive towards bad faith actors and corrupt lobbyists on the left.  

The pervasive lack of accountability among Democrats is a real weakness for progressives, and the fact that there is some measure of accountability in the form of potential primary challenges means that there will be a behavioral change on the part of many members of Congress.  No longer will they be able to listen to former staffers turned lobbyists, because they know that Lieberman's example could be their own.  No longer can they take for granted their safety in safe districts, because Donna Edwards isn't the only principled and connected progressive around.  And some of the tools and methodologies we're developing can be used to effectively damage Republican candidates, as we saw with the internet's mauling of George Allen after his macaca comments.  Accountabiliy works all around.

The Lieberman challenge (and the Wynn and Lawless challenges) are about changing the revenue model of bad actors within the party and on the left and making it unprofitable to push a right-wing agenda.  It's fairly clear at this point that Democrats will not take back either House without a progressive message, so getting rid of these bad actors actually helps a Democratic takeover.  But more to the point, if Democrats do takeover a House of Congress, it's not like the right-wing pressure is going away.  It's not like it's going to be easy to pass bills, since ripping New Dems and Blue Dogs from the leadership and having them be essential GOP caucus members is quite possible given the setup I've described.  There should be an incentive system to discourage that kind of behavior.  In fact there must be such an incentive system, or a Democratic Congress will simply be more competent at driving this country off a cliff.

So if you care about the Democratic Party being a functional opposition party, you should care tremendously about the Lieberman challenge.  And if you care about the Democratic Party being a functional governing party that can get legislation passed, you'll care even more.

Tags: Connecticut, CT-Sen, Joe Lieberman, Machine, Ned Lamont (all tags)



Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Shorter Matt Stoller: When is Leader Harry Reid going to begin leading?

Democrats need to give Lieberman the death blow, if the don't then November could be a throw the bums out election instead of a contrast event. The fact that Reid hasn't forced this point is very disappointing -- this coming from somebody who has defended Reid time and time again.

by Bob Brigham 2006-08-19 08:14PM | 0 recs
Dismantling Lieberschnitzel

Truly great post, Matt.  I'm in awe of your grasp of the situation and the ability to articulate it.

Here's my note to substitute blogger DK at TPM:

Hello DK,

I differ with you on the matter of progressives devoting so much time and energy to the CT Senate race.    

~ Progressives need a big win, a highly visible kickass victory that announces the fact that business as usual in the Democratic Party is no longer acceptable.  The Lamont/Lieberman race isn't diluting our resources; it is a unifying and galvanizing and motivational tool.

~If we want to challenge Republicans and retake the Congress and the White House, getting our own house in order is the first order of business.  Self-serving politicos like Joe Lieberman facilitate the Bush agenda, and make it difficult for us to inspire voters to cast their ballot for Democrats.

~Lamont has tons of cash with which to finance his own race, which means that progressive dollars won't have to flow heavily into his campaign.  He won't come up short for money.

~Changing the party ideologically and philosophically and pointing it in a more progressive direction can't be accomplished unless we remove Lieberman and the other DLC types from leadership positions.   A knock-down, drag out intra-party squabble is unavoidable, and we may as well have it out right now.  Winning this fight will have huge implications within the Democratic Party, as the hysterical reaction from DC lobbyists and the established media types reveals.  Their horror at the prospect of real participatory democracy (see Aug. 8 CT primary) confirms the fact that we were right to join this battle.

global yokel

by global yokel 2006-08-19 08:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Poor Harry Reid. Why didn't he just put out a contract on Lieberman like the Blog Birchers wanted? Why did he have to try and think beyond the election and the possiubility that Hooly Joe might be needed.

by spirowasright 2006-08-19 08:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Bush is the only one who needs his cup of Joe.

by Sitkah 2006-08-19 10:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Well said, Matt.  Your post clarifies and expands the scope and implications of the "accountability" theme that emerged from the recent MyDD polling and was discussed in earlier posts by Chris. Representative democracy is essentially about accountability, and the netroots is creating and using new systems to revitalize the principle of accountability in the American political system.  And the challenges to incumbents is one important manifestation of this change.  It's a key tool for narrowing the gap between the progressive views held by a majority of Americans and the policies that come out of Washington.  

As the netroots' capabilities evolve, I think that gap-narrowing process will accelerate, in part because the gap has been so wide for so long and the real-world problems it's led to have grown so large, obvious and painful.  Sort of like the way heat or electricity work.  The greater the difference, the faster the shift, once a channel has opened up that can support an expanded flow of change.

by mitchipd 2006-08-19 08:38PM | 0 recs
A radical suggestion

Take the representatives out of WAshington and have them stay in their districts. With the advent of modern communications there is no need to have them all go to D.C. Let them stay in their home districts. It would be very difficult to lobby them because they would be spread out all over the country. While we are at it, we could also spread out other branches of the government as well. I wouild keep the Supreme Court in D.C., and maybe the Senate, but the House and a lot of the departments should be sent out into the countryside. I would also make the districts much smaller and triple the size of the House of Representatives.

by mrgavel 2006-08-19 08:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Agree with global yokel. Great, great post. There's an argument to be made that beating the GOP is so uniquely important this time around that it behooves us to temporarily avoid picking fights with K-street Democrats and Pundits, but I'm not really inclined to accept that kind of argument.

by roublen vesseau 2006-08-19 08:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Agree with global yokel. Great, great post. There's an argument to be made that beating the GOP is so uniquely important this time around that it behooves us to temporarily avoid picking fights with K-street Democrats and Pundits, but I'm not really inclined to accept that kind of argument.

by roublen vesseau 2006-08-19 08:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

I'm not really inclined to accept that kind of argument.

Me neither. There's always an excuse for putting reform off.

But cleaning up corruption in the Democratic Party and government is like cleaning the house. It needs to be done on a continuous basis because if it's put off the mess gets worse and harder to clean up.

by Sitkah 2006-08-19 10:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

"Lieberman himself is responsible for many of the corporate accounting scandals over the years because of his embrace of various financial lobbies."

Oh yeah. My brother, a money manager, could rant and rave for an hour about how Lieberman helped pave the way for so many of the Wall Street abuses, such as the misuse of stock options.

by desmoinesdem 2006-08-19 08:54PM | 0 recs
About to get an aneurism

This is starting to really piss me off. I did NARAL last week, now working on my Senators, Feingold and Kohl. Even the best of them (that would be Feingold) are still part of that dandy little band of brothers, the United States Senate. An excerpt:

Lieberman's manipulative, self-seeking behavior promotes cynicism about our democratic system and demeans the Democratic Party, the Unites States Senate, and particularly Democratic Senators who refuse to call it what it is and take measures to stymie it. Why exactly should anyone vote Democratic? Indeed, why should anyone vote at all if elections are regarded as technical barriers easily overcome by elite Senators well-liked by their peers, the only jury that counts.

Do not think this will go away. Lieberman the great independent, the great martyr and victim of the left purge. More like a pariah for the very good reason that he has worked feverishly to further every unhealthy tendency in our political system. He spits on the party which made his career, turns his back on Democratic voters and on every institution and person who has befriended and allied with him. He is poison.

by MikeB 2006-08-19 09:42PM | 0 recs

I'm enclosing a printed copy of Matt's article with the letter to my Senators:

Please consider the thoughtful and closely argued piece by Matt Stoller of MyDD, enclosed here ("Dismantling the Liebermachine", August 20). This moment in history requires sharp political distinctions and especially accountability, a conclusion being approached by broad masses well beyond the confines of the Democratic electorate. This is the development Lieberman seeks to blunt and frustrate. The "Lieberman Principle" -- no accountability for Bush, no accountability for Joe, stay the course.

by MikeB 2006-08-20 10:36AM | 0 recs
Maybe Your Best Post Ever, Matt

(And, as a writer, I know all about how your own favorite never gets recognized by others, but still...)

Realistically, the Democrats could have won back the House at least two or three times since 1994.  What was lacking was the will.  And the will was lacking precisely because of the interlocking Beltway mechanisms you describe.

If we do win the House back this time, but then make no headway in changing those mechanisms, we will have won only the most superficial of victories, and will not be able to capitalize on it.  That failure, in turn, could make the right even more powerful.

Skeptics are invited to remember the Democrat's failure to deliver on any signature issues during Clinton's first two years.  What we got was the GOP takeover of the House.  It's not enough to win.  You have to deliver once you've won, or your victory will be very short-lived.

Beating Lieberman now is a crucial step in the war that will follow November.  For that reason, it is quite possibly the most important Senate race in the country.

Besides, you can never tell. If Lieberman wins he could always break his word again, and caucus with the Republicans.  So don't believe it when people say that it's not a battle for a Democratic Senate seat.  It absolute is that, and much, much more, as this post makes abundantly clear.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-08-19 09:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Maybe Your Best Post Ever, Matt

Paul's right.  This election isnot just about winning a numerical majority in Congress, but also about changing the culture of DC, at least with respect to the Dems.

by KDMfromPhila 2006-08-20 04:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Maybe Your Best Post Ever, Matt

I agree, Best Post Ever. It's good that you stay focused on this race and the strategic meaning of it because you are making leaps of discovery. I haven't read these ideas anywhere else and wonder what you are reading, Matt. This is a new way of thinking of power sharing in D.C.

And, Howard Dean Was Right, but I didn't know what he meant by holding their feet to the fire after the Dems take back the the WH. I thought all we had to do was take back the WH. Oops. The Lamont campaign has shown me the Liebermachine true colors, money-green.

by mrobinsong 2006-08-20 06:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Maybe Your Best Post Ever, Matt

Looking ahead to 2006 and not 2008 -- how committee chairs will make or break this power may depend on the real results of Lamont/Lieberman and similar races around the country. Where would this shake up make the most difference?

by musicsleuth 2006-08-20 06:57AM | 0 recs
Matt gets it better than almost anyone

except when he is bashing Obama (Matt, that article about Obama you cited likely misquoted Obama, because he isn't dumb enough to not know that FDR, a Democrat, led the US into WW-II, and ALL democrats except Barbara Lee voted to support the Afghan war).

by NuevoLiberal 2006-08-19 10:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Matt gets it better than almost anyone

You've got it backward. Obama's the one who's been doing the bashing -- of the very everyday people who gave him their time, money, and votes in 2004.

A corporation wouldn't stand for such betrayel of its political support and neither should the ordinary Democrats who he has betrayed.

by Sitkah 2006-08-19 10:21PM | 0 recs
Nope. it's a myth that Obama is bashes Dems

or anyone else.

He in fact defended Feingold in Sep'05 when the latter was getting bashed at Daily Kos for voting to confirm Roberts.

by NuevoLiberal 2006-08-19 11:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Jury's still out on Obama...

I suppose we'll learn more

We learn more about Obama everry few weeks when he rears up to launch another Zell-like scold of ordinary Democrats for not being more like Republicans-- the Hillary/Biden influence is cleary visible then.

by Sitkah 2006-08-20 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Why are 3 million plus MoveOn members frequently cited as a "fringe" group while 36,000 Club For Growth members never get the same treatment?  Because the Club for Growth has some pelts on the wall.  Winning this one (and that includes November) will solve a lot of problems.  All of a sudden, bad actors like Max Baucus and Tom Carper will pay more attention (yeah, Carper is running this year but politicians always have to be thinking about the next race).

Good thoughts.

by David Kowalski 2006-08-19 10:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

This entry is brilliant and should be cross posted everywhere.

by Sitkah 2006-08-19 10:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

This article states exactly what the Lamont/Lieberman race is all about.  This race is not between right and left, but rather having a progressive voice within the Washington, DC democrats.

My biggest dissapointments in the Democratic Senate was the Bankruptsy bill and Judge Alito.  Both sailed through the Senate because of the DLC.  While the majority of grass roots Democrats were against these two things, we shouldn't forget Harriet Myers' nomination.  It was sucessfully destroyed by the right wing becuase of the the right wing noice machine influence.

To use football terminology, this is not the time to go on prevent defense, this is the time to go on the offence becuase we did not win anything yet.  Lamont will be a good start.

by alexonoffense 2006-08-19 10:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

by alexonoffense 2006-08-23 08:53PM | 0 recs
Someone's been channeling Ralph Nader!

I read the second paragraph, and had to read it again.  Then again.

That's exactly what Ralph has been saying for seven years now.  Ok, the exact words are different, but the concept and the central content are pure Nader.

Followed along the rest of the article, and it modified the initial argument a bit, but at the core, it was still the Nader message from the last seven years.

One of these days Progressives are going to wake up and realize that not only this sort of analysis, but a lot of their programs, originate (in the recent past) from Ralph Nader. And a good way to see where the Progressive movement could go to do real good for America will be to...re-read Ralph Nader.

Flame ahead, but the thoughtful and well-read will recognize this truth.

by traveler 2006-08-20 12:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Someone's been channeling Ralph Nader!

Any message that Ralph Nader had was long ago drowned out by his oversized ego.

The Goldwater Republicans did not split from the GOP in some quixotic attempt to establish a third party.  They worked away patiently to take over the GOP from within.  

Who has had more impact on breaking the lock of the status quo on the DC Democratic Party: Ralph Nader (who has earned only the bitter resentment of most Democrats) or (via the shockwaves of his primary win) Ned Lamont?

Suppose Nader had followed Lamont's course of action, instead of the siren song of his own ego?

by Taylor26 2006-08-20 03:12AM | 0 recs
Someone's just reciting tired, old talking points

Ralph's message hasn't been drowned out by anyone.  It's just being censored and suppressed by the Corrupt Corporate Media.  They know a real enemy when they see/hear one, and Nader has been the (effective) nemesis of the CCM and their allies for about 40 (fourty) years (years).  How long have you been fighting the CCM, Mr. & Ms. SuperProgressive?

And isn't one of the complaints you have right now that the CCM are ignoring YOU.  I read posts all over the progressive blogosphere (including here)about how TV, newspapers, etc. won't balance their coverage of events with liberal/Democratic/progressive talking heads. So is your obsession with being ignored a symptom of YOUR oversized egos, Mr. & Ms. SuperProgressive? Is it a symptom of YOUR unbalanced obsession with your agenda? Relate it to your own situation and you see how pathetic a piece of psychobabble that criticism of Ralph really is.

The analogy to Goldwater Republicans is totally bogus.  Ralph has always been an INDEPENDENT, precisely to avoid the corruption of person and message that comes with being a political insider, and thus becoming corrupted in who one is and what one stands for.  The Republcans are horribly corrupt now.  No question.  The Democrats were horrible corrupt up to 12 years ago (read the history or the newspapers of the day), and many DNC Democrats still can't give up the corporate teat (as noted in this post).  Ralph early on chose the difficult way of independent action and thinking precisely to remain true to his Progressive vision.  And he still led the way in  accomplishing wonders.  Geniuses tend to be that way--independent (e.g.s: well, how many geniuses have been machine slugs or people who can't do better than reciting The Party's talking points?).

Nader never wanted to remake the Democratic party because of the reasons noted in the post--it is/can be as corrupt as the Republican party. Point already covered.  

And Ned Lamont (a nice guy with a good message) has NOT broken the lock of the status quo on the DC Democratic party.  He never will.  You, the people, organizing the way Ralph Nader has shown us how, in independent groups (are you all tools of the Democratic Party?  If not, you're independents) that network together for unified action to bring about substantive change, YOU, are the ones who will break the lock of the DC Democratic party.  

Nader is not following his own ego (more pathetic psychobabble), he's following a Progressive agenda through independent action, forming and supporting independent groups that can go on, on their own, to effect change in their own manner, in the arena of their choosing.  That sounds exactly like who/what Progressives are today.  

That sounds exactly like YOU.

Thank Ralph Nader for laying the groundwork, for forming the strategies, for showing people how to build what you are building right now.

You owe a debt.  Pay it.  

by traveler 2006-08-20 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Someone's been channeling Ralph Nader!

i That's exactly what Ralph has been saying for seven years now.  

Many who now support reform of the Democratic Party and government either don't realize or won't admit that it was Nader who got the ball rolling.

Oh well....I imagine Nader himself doesn't care if he's hated so long as his cause is growing. And the hatred only hurts those who indulge themselves in it anyway -- except when it causes them to focus on counterproductive acts of  political revenge against the puny Greens.

by Sitkah 2006-08-20 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

If you think about it for a minute I would argue, we owe DK over at TPM a vote of Thanks! Thanks for bringing up the issue. I personally have over 25 tabs open on my browser. When I first read DK's post I didn't quite know what to make of it. The issue of being over attentive to the Lieberman/Lamont issue had a ring of truth to it and I found myself wondering. Well as I began to hit my tabs I found the rapid response to Dk by the likes of Atrios,MDD,FDL etc. extraordinary and energizing! Man I love you guys. Now I am more energized to support Lamont and all our Netroot picks. Again thanks DK @ TPM! I hope you don't take the drubbing you've gotten to heart! You may have kicked a hornets nest but I think you inadvertently inspired many to fight harder more than you discouraged.

by eddieb 2006-08-20 04:16AM | 0 recs
an animating concept. . .
and momentum is on our side it seems. we have to be in it for the long haul though. i'm concerned that trying to win this fight with a single flanking gesture will result in the perception of a rout. joe is misguided and motivated by his own parochial interests, but i fear we do ourselves a disservice by dwelling too much on his efforts. i also fear that some may be too close to the battle to perceive that the "all joe all the time" tone on the blogs--or even the "lots of joe" tone--seems to reinforce some of his paranoid messaging.
by Emory Walker 2006-08-20 04:18AM | 0 recs
Ned's Coattails

I tend to think that we should be piling cash and other support on to Lamont's campaign.  Lamont has the nation's attention now.  Suppose he can keep it, and turn it into a David/Goliath saga; little Ned's sling against the D.C. establishment.  And, little by little, catch up in the polls.  The national media will stick with the story, and this will get progressive juices flowing nationwide.

With enough drama and publicity, he'll have coattails, just as a presidential candidate has coattails, pulling progressives to the polls.  This is the other half of David/Goliath; David's victory energized the Israelites and demoralized the Philistines, and the Philistines were routed.

I guess my main point is that it's not quite correct to view it as a zero sum situation:  a dollar for Lamont means a dollar less for some other progressive.  A dollar for Lamont might have the effect of 25 cents for every progressive.

by drlimerick 2006-08-20 04:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

I wish that I could be as articulate as you and the other commentators on this diary but I'm not so all I can say is thank you.  Thank you for stating in the most simple and understandable way why we must crush the Lieberman machine.

by lisadawn82 2006-08-20 04:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Excellent post.  

It advances the notion that in a democracy change is good.  And you are dead on.  I sometimes work in Washington and there is an accepted status quo about what can and can't be done--what can and can't be tried.  The limits are set in stone--sort of a working agreement between all players.

Not to be a broken record, but Cardin is a member of that status quo. Mfume on the other hand will break the mold.

by aiko 2006-08-20 04:38AM | 0 recs
Good Summary of Crashing the Gate

You said in a few words with perhaps greater force -- using Lamont/Lieberman as an example -- what a couple of other people needed an entire book to lay out. Well done and absolutely correct. When are you and Chris going to write your book, anyhow?

by Anouke 2006-08-20 05:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

 I'm sending this post to my listserv. It nails everything down as well as I've ever seen it.

 The Democratic Party used to promote and defend a core set of values, defined by great Americans like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Tip O'Neill, and many others in that mold. And its commitment to these core values allowed it to become the majority party in America for more than half of the twentieth century, a century in which the United States of America attained levels of prestige and prosperity unmatched by any other nation in world history.

 The Democratic Party today has been reduced to a loose confederation of political figures who can be described as "disagreeing with Republicans on one or more issues". The party's core mission is not winning elections, protecting the Constitution, restoring American prosperity, or ushering in a new era of rational government. None of that.

No, the party's core mission is simply protecting the career of one Joseph Lieberman. And for that, they're willing to throw away what chances they have for retaking Congress. For the "Democratic Party", feeding Joe Lieberman's ego is the most important thing in the world -- more important than Iraq, more important than the restoration of economic prosperity, more important than defending the Constitution, more important than getting Congress back. It's all about Joe.

At this point, Joe Lieberman could don swastika armbands, deny the Holocaust, torch black churches in the South, apply a full-body massage to Dick Cheney on a Sunday morning show, call for the nuking of Los Angeles, and utter racial epithets that would make George Allen blush -- and Democratic "leaders" would fall all over themselves praising his character and his resoluteness.

 With this attitude, the Dems are going to be a minority party for a long, long time. I suspect they prefer it that way.

by Master Jack 2006-08-20 05:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

The Democratic Party began during the FDR administration to support the notion of popular sovereignty. It began to act as though commitment to the idea that common people matter was of some signifigance. This process was slow and not until the civil rights era was there a real commitment to a nation that allowed everyone equal opportunity.

That idea flourished (more or less) for about 30 years from 1968 until the party lost Congress in 1994.

But the party also became more and more corrupt and less and less responsive as it governed. The Republican party simply never had any interest in governing. It wanted to dismantle government not run it. But, once in power they found that impossible. Thus, they simply sold government to the highest bidder.

If the Democrats retake control of one or both houses of Congress they will quickly become part of the same system of corruption unless there's a mechanism of holding their feet to the fire on a host of issues.

Worse, the Republicans noises machine will fight back putting up every example of Democratic mis-rule in an effort to disgust voters with politics altogether and blunt any further attempts at poplular control.

Unless self-serving corrupt politicians like Lieberman are purged from the party not only will Democrats quickly lose whatever majority they gain, but it will actually make things worse!

Better a minority party that actually stands for something than a party that merely shoulders it's way to the trough and starts elbowing the republican pigs already there in order to get the biggest portion of slops!

by Cugel 2006-08-20 12:51PM | 0 recs
Nice Writing, But Anecdotal

Matt, I enjoyed the writing but you're doing exactly what you - rightly -- called out Greg for in his "Strip mining the Grassroots" series: making broad generalizations not necessarily backed up by the facts.

First off, everyone, I am thrilled that Lieberman got beat and hope to be thrilled again in November.

That said, Interest groups like NARAL and Sierra Club aren't backing up Lieberman because they're fools and weak, they're doing it because he goes to the mat for him. He's threatened filibusters to stop ANWR from going through, for example.

Also, he's no more of a friend of the financial services industry than Hillary Clinton or Schumer.  Financial Services is CTs biggest industry (Wall Street in Fairfield County and Insurance in Stamford). He's taking care of his constituents.  Lamont can and will do the same thing.

I don't understand the strange insinuation that Dodd and Lieberman are exchanging staffers and, as your post implies, colluding in the undermining of the progressive movement.  Dodd is at a different, higher level, than Lieberman.  I understand that you and others are mad at him for not taking his colleague of many years down, but c'mon. Where's your evidence?  His alums are like Moynihan/Kennedy people -- some of the smartest people in the party (like Doug Sosnik) come through his office.  He's a real legislator and not an opportunity like Lieberman. He's one of the reasons we finally stopped our insane policy in Central America in the 80s and 90s.  

Finally, there's no cabal of "corporate consultants chattering in fear when a liberal position is proposed."  There's no cabal - that's part of the problem.  There's a bunch of single issue groups doing the best they can.

What I think you don't understand (and also what Jerome and Kos don't understand) is that the Dems lost a decades old farm team and infrastructure when we lost the House in 94.  We lost committee staffers who had been working on policies for 20 years and many build in institutional mechanisms (through the leadership) for weighing issues versus what was perceived as the greater good for the party.  When it was taken away, there was nothing but K Street for the later part of the 90s. And, Grover and Delay were smart enough to take that away (and have just about finished the job).  

So, there is a vacuum, not a cabal, and it allows opportunists like Lieberman to fill it.  Lieberman is a symptom of a lack of an infrastructure not of a corrupt and misdirected healthy one.  He needs to be put down to show that his behavior -- behavior that Chris Dodd and others don't participate in -- does not help your career, it kills it.  And, I think putting him down is not a blow against the Chris Dodds of the world, it is a blow against the David Brooks of the world. Besides Dodd, who has to be supportive of Lieberman because he is in his delegation, the others who support him only do so because they perceive he has power and they -- right now -- have none.  The enemy is the RNC and Fox, not Chris Dodd and Dem Consultants. Those guys will come around when it becomes clear that there is power in progressive positions.  And, when that happens, we'll need 'em.  Because the other side will dedicate all of their substantial resources to undermining that new found power.

by lojo 2006-08-20 05:45AM | 0 recs
Excellent point!

the Dems lost a decades old farm team and infrastructure when we lost the House in 94

This (from a quick scan) is the bull point from the entire thread.

Because the Dems had controlled Congress for so damned long (with minor exceptions), the party and government apparatus had congealed (in a similar way to the CPSU and government organisms of the USSR way back when).

When the voters had the temerity to chuck them out in 94, large slugs of the Dem infrastucture were washed away.

And because, Micawber-like, the Dems have been expecting something to turn up ever since, they've not effectively built anything outside to compensate for their loss.

Or - put another way - the vast gaps in Dem organization out in the states (a lack of county and precinct operations, in particular) are mirrored in the lack of organization in the Capitol.

Great douche of realism there!

by skeptic06 2006-08-20 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Exellent post; thoughtful and fair.

How about LIEBERMAN for LIEBERMAN, or LIEberman (L-CT)?

by tfitznc 2006-08-20 06:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

I'll go against the tide and take up DK's case, although I don't dismiss Matt's point that the Lamont/Lieberman race is very important. Indeed, having Lamont in the Senate is a great advantage to progressives, but if Lieberman were elected it wouldn't necessarily have a significant adverse effect on Democrats. First, it would still mean the Republicans would not gain control of a Senate seat. Second, being elected as an independent would weaken Lieberman within the Democratic caucus -- if he were allowed to participate in it. Third, by focusing disproportionately on Connecticut, it distracts from seats which Democrats may take from Republicans -- which, in my mind, is the highest priority, since a Democratic majority in the Senate is critical even if some of the Democrats lean conservative.

This last point is significant. Consider the numbers Josh Marshall posted on blog mentions: 26,578 on Lamont, then a six-race range from 6,764 on Brown to 1,976 on McCaskill. Ohio and Missouri went Republican in '04, but are historically swing states; to turn them Democratic in a statewide election is vital. Is the battle between two Democrats in Connecticut 13 times more important than that of a Democrat against a vulnerable Republican incumbent in Missouri? (I understand that's a somewhat meaningless statistical extrapolation, but from a qualitative perspective it's not far off the mark; there may even be Missouri voters who scan the blogs who have heard much more about Lamont than McCaskill, the '04 gubernatorial candidate. We Missourians don't expect much of a limelight for anything other than Cardinals baseball, but our Senator's vote is just as important as either Lamont's or Lieberman's, especially since now they are being cast by Bond and Talent. I suspect progressives in Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Montana and Nevada share a similar perspective.)

Of course, the races less mentioned were not heavily contested primaries, so the skew toward discussion of Lamont/Lieberman is understandable. However, if this proportion does not begin to equalize soon -- with the general election approaching the two-month countdown -- opportunities may be at risk of being lost, especially since attention in the blogosphere seems to have an impact on both fundraising and activism.

by MoCrash 2006-08-20 06:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Couldn't agree more!  Before Democrats can hope to be an effective party, they need some unity - or more specifically, "whipping."  The only way to do that is to have some party influence over individual elections.  THe dems have to have the long view and not just look at this one election or they'll be forever in the desert.

by DanD 2006-08-20 07:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

I don't agree with that at all. This is very similar to happened with Dean. Liberal blogs built momentum, the money started to roll in. That's about all they can do.... get things started. About the time Iowa rolled around the bloggers effectiveness had ended. It's all about the local politics and the candidates own skills.

Matt, thanks for addressing the point. I was really taken back by the knee jerk insults on DK and Josh for merely suggesting a change in tactics. Sad.

You point out a very good reason why the race is so important.  But I would argue regardless, the blogs role has ended and their resources (money and type space) should be used to create buzz about other strategic races.  

And BTW doesn't Markos point out when asked about the power of blogs by reporters, that his role lies in creating "buzz"? Well the buzz is created and Lamont should take it from here.

by padcrasher 2006-08-20 07:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

I'm just thinking back on all the good work these liberal blogs have done. They built momentum for Dean, Rodriguez, Busby, Hackett. These races went to from no chance in hell to damn close. Now we get to Lieberman/Lamont and the plan is to push this till election day? It just seems like overkill.

by padcrasher 2006-08-20 07:54AM | 0 recs
CT Senate race

Lowell Weicker, 1988 - This is what a class act looks like:

''I congratulate Joe Lieberman on the very fine win, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,'' Mr. Weicker said, surrounded at Greenwich Town Hall by 100 friends, staff members, his seven sons and his tearful wife, Claudia. ''I did not lose this race by a few thousand votes. In my mind and in my heart, I lost it by a hundred thousand.''...

''This wasn't a close race,'' Mr. Weicker said. ''It was a clear mandate by the people of Connecticut that matters I stood for are not to their liking and what Mr. Lieberman promises is to their liking. Let there be no taint at all on Mr. Lieberman's win. He has the support of this state.''

http://lamontblog.blogspot.com/2006/08/h ow-real-man-handles-losing.html

by global yokel 2006-08-20 08:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

I dislike Joe Lieberman as much as the next person and would love to see him gone, but I think you're all starting to lose it.  Keep your eye on the damn prize.  And that prize is control of Congress.  We're quickly moving from a situation in which we needed to change six seats in the Senate to one where we now need to gain seven seats!  Great political victories are not won by moving in the wrong direction and by shooting yourself in the foot.  Yes yes, I know that some attention is being paid (fitfully) to other Senate races, especially when George Allen opens his mouth, but be truthful:  it's beating Joe Lieberman that has the netroots excited more than anything else.  And I'm sorry but Matt's argument in this post is a fig leaf for rationalizing away that fever.  If the Democrats don't take Congress, if they don't take the Senate, that will be an unmitigated disaster for the Party and the nation and, let me add, the netroots.  If they take the Senate, even with Lieberman still in office (which I fervently hope won't happen), the atmosphere in this country will start to change for the better.  Then we can think seriously about how Congress is run.  You don't think Tester, McCaskill, Webb and the other new senators will be able to carry on that charge even if Lieberman manages to sneak back into office?

Cheer Ned Lamont on, but start to pay attention where it really counts, in all the races where we're trying to beat Republicans.  Again -- keep your eye on the prize and Move On folks!

by santamonicamr 2006-08-20 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Matt, I couldn't agree more about the importance of the Lamont/Lieberman 'race as unimportant or meaningless instead of the momentus event it really is'. This the same election as 8/8/06 -Part II.  We are back at square one with the same two candidates with one HUGE exception: one of the candidates is now running AGAINST the party and has HUGE opposition support. This is a re-run of the same battle, only this is one sequel where the dynamics have changed significantly.  In Part I, Connecticut stood to retain a Democratic Senate seat regardless of who won.  In Part II, we now run the risk of losing that very same Senate seat to the same waffling, Beltway panderer the CT Dems just defeated in the primary. And many of us are unwilling to let that happen without putting up a very visable, vocal battle. Important? You bet it is. Meaningless? To Whom? The importance of that one Democratic Senate seat shouldn't be lost on any Democrat. It certainly shouldn't be trivialized or minimized - we need 6 Senate seats.

by bboop 2006-08-20 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Here's a measure of accountabilty for you ... the Voters for Pledge .... www.votersforpeace.us

by srcnyc 2006-08-20 01:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

er, make that the Voters for PEACE pledge ...

by srcnyc 2006-08-20 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

This is a battle between the have and have nots, the insiders vs. the outsiders, powerful vs. the powerless, the elites vs. the working class.  We will win this battle because we have to and because the internet has given us the tools.  If the Dems don't get on board and quick, Lieberman will only be the first of many.  We will not speak softly, and we will carry a big stick.  We are FDR Dems, and we intend to take our party back.  

by dkmich 2006-08-20 01:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Thanks again, Matt. You are rapidly becoming the leading analyst of the "battle for the soul of the party."  This is probably one of the most important races in my lifetime.  John Edwards spoke a couple weeks ago at the National Press Club and said that right now we are in a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party and that in turn was a fight for the soul of America.  So it is not surprising at all that John Edwards hightailed it up to Connecticut to stand beside Lamont and condemn Lieberman. Some of us really really get it especially those of us who are tired of fighting Republican Lite DINOS in our state leadership positions. It takes twice the energy to fight in our own party.  So I say, "Throw the Bums Out".  I'm headed to the vomitoria.  Let's Purge Away.

by Feral Cat 2006-08-20 02:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Great article. BTW, Maryland's primary is Sept. 12. Donna Edwards is challenging Al Wynn. She could use all the love you can send her. Her victory would send exactly the right message to the enablers!

by infoshaman 2006-08-20 02:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine

Poor Harry Reid. Why didn't he just put out a contract on Lieberman like the Blog Birchers wanted? Why did he have to try and think beyond the election and the possiubility that Hooly Joe might be needed.

spirowas right,  

If Harry only could get  it through his head, if he comes out full attack mode, tells Democrats to come and stand with Ned, makes a huge effort here, he does not have to worry about Joe winning and being needed!

by Bergs 2006-08-20 03:37PM | 0 recs
Great Article!

My theory is that the Democrats need to handle traitors the same way the Republicans do and go after them full force when they turn away.

This is one of the best articles I have seen yet on this subject. I discussed it as well on my blog, but not in this depth.

Well done.

http://dontbealemming.com/2006/08/19/dem ocrats-need-to-be-true-to-themselves-and -their-priorities.aspx

Posted by the Lemming Herder from Don't Be A Lemming!

by Lemming Herder 2006-08-20 05:34PM | 0 recs
Capitol Hill Thinking

I'm clipping this post, Matt, for my husband to read . . . He's a staffer for a Senate DEM, and thinks that Progressives (ie., blogosphere hotheads) are wasting energy and money in CT:  "Leave Lieberman alone--outside of Iraq, he's a reliable DEM vote.  And besides, as the de facto Repub candidate, he's going to win.  So if we make him mad before election day, he won't be very nice to us afterward."

That's what passes for "reliable?"  (What happens if the voters get mad before election day?)

by ohms 2006-08-21 05:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Dismantling the Liebermachine
Coming back on that massage Dick was getting - how nice that must be, I must say there's probably no better place on Earth where one can enjoy a full body massage with aura cacia then a seat in the US Senate. These guys have nothing better to do than sit back and relax. While we struggle out here trying to make it and on top of that we actually vote for them. The more annoying this is to us, the more relaxing it must be to them
by Iulia 2007-11-11 10:27PM | 0 recs


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