Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On Lieberman Losing ...

Well let me throw my two cents in on this whole Lieberman thing.

First of all - I think that there's no point in getting carried away with attacks on the man. Because in the midst of all the debate over his politics, I think that one thing is clear -- anyone who has met Joe Lieberman will tell you that he is a dedicated public servant, a longtime supporter of a number of worthy causes, and in general an upstanding example of a politician who has truly strived to better the lives of others through his work.

That being said ...

The democratic party right now is a mess. On the one hand, they need to distance themselves from the President, as was evidenced by this primary election. There WAS a time for unity in our country following 9/11 - that time is clearly over. Unity and bipartisanship are worthy things to strive for, but the fact is that a lot of people are pretty fed up with our president on any number of issues, and the democrats need to reflect that.

But what else did this primary show us? It showed that it's all about PERCEPTION. Lieberman was PERCEIVED as being too buddy-buddy with Bush, and that was a big factor, pretty much THE factor, in his loss. But the democrats also have to be wary of being perceived as a bunch of reactionaries who ahve no real platform of their own, whose only agenda is to refute everything that the president says or does. This is stupid and pointless. Sure, it may be effective in rallying a small, activist base to usurp a guy like Lieberman, who has never been particularly effective at sweeping people up in the emotion of his statements. But come on - on a national platform, a far-left guy with no real platform of his own stands NO CHANCE of being elected.

Look at the top people in the national, democratic camp. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and even Lieberman. All are moderates who voted FOR the resolution to go to war (only a select few didn't), and only a moderate has a chance to win a national election. But when I say moderate, I DON'T mean someone who has conservative leanings on key issues. I think that the public is ready for elected officials who are PRO stem cell research, PRO gay marriage, PRO environment (including strongly PRO alternative fuel sources), and generally LIBERAL and PROGRESSIVE on any number of social issues.

Here's the thing though - being socially liberal has NOTHING TO DO WITH being tough when it comes to foreign policy. Nor does being critical of a botched war in Iraq have anything to do with being, say, supportive of Israel and determined to crack down on global terror.

And yet that is the PERCEPTION - that being a critic of the Iraq war means that, by default, you're not supportive of Israel and vice versa. You're either tough on foreign polic or you're not. Again - what does one thing necessarily have to do with another? If our resources weren't so occupied in Iraq for instance, we'd be much better able to focus on the broader Middle-East conflict. Whatever happened to picking your battles?

Which brings me back to Lieberman. The problem is that he has fallen into the trap of falling into line with the WRONG party line - the Republican one, in his case. Obviously the man is a huge supporter of Israel and it's right to defend herself. Does this make him a conservative? It shouldn't, but unfortunately that makes him a neocon in the eyes of many. Why? Because this is the trap -- the Bush administration sees Israel as just one cog in its war on terror - a war that has been totally botched and misguided from almost Day One. Supporting Israel and denouncing terror SHOULD have nothing to do with the war in Iraq, in fact they are almost oppossite golas, as the war in Iraq has arguably created new havens for terrorism and further destabalized the region. But the perception is that all these things are related.

So the plus side is that a number of conservatives in power now support Israel, because doing so fits into their view of the War on Terror. Think about it - before 9/11 how many conservatives were pushing Bush's poorly conceived and followed-up upon Roadmap to Peace? But, the reverse is also true. Jews and other Israel supporters now find themselves falling in line with a more Conservative ideology, simply because that ideology now seems to include support of Israel. In truth, it should be obvious that it is only an inclusion of convenience, not of TRUE support.

So here you have Lieberman, whose deservedly-questionionable support of Bush's foreign policy further exposes his more conservative leanings in a number of other areas. Is it any wonder that a liberal, activist base turned on him?

The Democrats can't win with a perceived conservative-Democrat like Lieberman, and they can't win with an overly liberal, reactionary agenda either. The party seriously needs to get itself together, and say "okay, this is what we believe." What should the platform of the Democratic party be? How's this?


- Denounce the war in Iraq as a botched mistake based on faulty intelligence. Commit to repurposing our troops away from Iraq as quickly as possible, and towards other areas of the world where terrrorism is a true threat. Commit to eliminating oil companies and other financial interests as a factor in political decision-making.

- Reaffirm the Democrats as the party for Israel, and commit to supporting all allies who fight against known terrorists, be they Hezbollah, AL-Quaida, or any other such group. Commit to a lasting plan that would not only bering peace to the Middle East, but eliminate influences like Hamas, Hezbollah, etc, who are not true partners for peace from the negotiating table.

- Commit to the environment. Make the widspread manufacturing of alternative fuel-based vehicles one of our top priorities as a country. Lessen drilling and destruction in preserved areas, and don't make concessions to the oil companies - their time is over.

- Commit to social justice and social progress. This means allowing science to go forward with stem cell research and making health and scientific decisions the jurisdiction of the individual, not the government.

Of course, in an election there are many, many issues that rise to prominence, but I wanted to convey the fact that the Democrats have NOT expressed their platform with clarity. Instead, they tend to either let the Republicans act, and then react (not a good plan for success), or else fall in line with the opposing side on too many key issues (see: Lieberman).

I can't say that I support Lieberman's position to run as an independent, because I think it ultimately weakens the Democratic party. I think Lieberman needs to concede, step away, and call it a day, for now. And even though it was a dedicated liberal base that ousted Lieberman, it reflects a desire that many have to be rallied, to be swayed, to be moved in some way. I don't agree with the candidate that the people chose over Lieberman, but I do agree with the sentiment that an established politician has to be proactive and not complacent. Politics is all about communication - Bill Clinton knew that well. Al Gore is lately starting to grasp this. Lieberman has yet to really communicate with the public and show why he is the man.

Yes, his public service record is top-notch, and any number of people will vouch for him as a person and as a leader. But with so many people dissatisfied with the status quo - is it any wonder that the status quo politician of Connecticut got the boot?

People keep saying that it's the Republican who should be concerned that such a prominent incumbent lost in large part due to his perceived association with Bush. in truth, the Dems have got to be worried - their party is a mess.

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