Sunday, August 20, 2006

When a Win is a Loss - Failed Strategies

This sounds about like the kind of backroom, insider operations you'll see in DC come January:
  1. Lieberman is calling for Rumsfeld's resignation
  2. Lamont runs mediocre campaign, narrowly loses the fall election to Holy Joe.
  3. The senate is 49 Dem, 49 Repub, 2 Ind. Jeffords caucuses w/Dems for 50.
  4. Bush taps Holy Joe to replace Rummy as SecDef, and Jodi Rell appoints a Republican for CT senator. 50/50 and Cheney provides the final vote.
  5. Rummy stays, Holy Joe gets pissed off at lack of support from Dems, caucuses w/Repubs, same outcome as above.
  6. Holy Joe bargains, keeps his seniority, caucuses with Dems, 51/49, but is always thumbing his nose at the party.
The deep irony here is that if only Lieberman had run with as much determination in the primary as he is going to for the general, this scenario wouldn't be on the table. Of course, if Republicans in CT had a decent candidate, that would pretty much deep-six Lieberman's run. It is hysterical that, as of the last Q poll, more Republicans would vote for *Lamont* than for Schlesinger.

Which brings up the question of strategy. Was this the right electoral round for trying to be rid of Lieberman? Reed Hunt's recent series of posts on TPM Cafe can be read as asking that question by making clear the cost of a Lamont loss in the general election. If Lieberman can be defeated in the general - a much harder proposition than a primary defeat because of having to overcome the Republican & Independent majorities for him - then it was because it will have succeeded. If Lamont loses, then it is worse (not arguably, demonstrably) to have done so because of the disruptive force an unaligned (and unhinged) Lieberman will bring to the Senate. It will be a suppurating wound of a PR disaster for the next seven years as the MSM focuses on "maverick" Lieberman and his battles with Democrats.

In a race where the Repubs are in serious danger of losing their congressional majority, they are going to pull out all the stops to claim that seat by proxy, and they will do thir best to alienate Lieberman without actually bringing him into the party. Their arguments are as full of shit as ever, of course, and my contempt for Lieberman grows by the day as he wallows in it. A Lieberman Independent win is a severe blow to all Democrats, particularly progressive ones, as he cannot be shut down.

Ned Lamont's campaign was a strategic mistake and may become a strategic defeat. He has no compelling message to offer except "I'm not Lieberman". In an electoral cycle when Dems could have cleanly won congressional control (and have been positioned for long-term house cleaning), he has inadvertantly given Rove a brilliant way to fuck over the Senate and keep other Democratic candidates out of the news. The desire of the Jacobin wing of the Democratic party to punish "DLC" incumbents before the power base had been sufficiently secured has propelled an unprepared and uninspiring candidate into an unnecessary contest.

So, Dem leadership is squarely facing the lady or tiger moment, and they have run out of options. They have to choose based on what they can hope for in the 2008 electoral cycle. They need to strongly support Lamont and emphasize party unity at every turn. They had also better hope they can pull out a win in every Democratic Senatorial race they are in. It looks like VA may finally be in play. Unless the Dems can get at least 50, then they are well and truly screwed when Joe comes riding in to town, owing them nothing and out for revenge.

Wrong candidate. Wrong state. Wrong election cycle.



J said...

Ang (if I may),

A few quick thoughts that need more baking, but as I haven't attended to my own blog, I hope you'll understand. As always, I enjoy reading your posts even if (and not just as a CT blogger) I disagree with them--they do get me thinking. Naturally, I would argue that Lamont is about a lot more than "I'm not Lieberman," which is something that, as I recall the trends in the polls up to the primary, more and more CT voters came to appreciate (though even just to not be Lieberman and be a Democrat is close to wearing an "I'm progressive" badge, to be flip). Moreover, I do find Lamont personally inspiring--and the people I met who work for him are as well.

As for strategy--you might be right, that this wasn't the "strategic" moment to give Lieberman the shove. But I, and many other Democratic primary voters, voted our consciences, not our strategies; perhaps more's the pity. But who can say what the effect will be of, as pundits care to call it, the "message" we have sent to the Democratic party and voters generally? And on that note, I am afraid I differ with you greatly on the value of the DLC--I see it as largely having enabled the right to move the "center" to the right of where it was, though I agree with you that a large "punishment" plan would be a bad idea. I'm not sure though, that if it happens fundamentally as a function of local voters' feelings about their local DLC incumbents (as Joe's ouster was) that I would be terribly upset, even if it meant a continued Republican majority in the Senate.

Which brings me to my final point, where I will play strategy of sorts for a moment--if the last six-ish years of a Bush presidency, and its devastation, isn't enough to move the American people to change, then perhaps we will need to accept and hope for the effect of another several years of continued Republican-dominated devastation to pull the switch and bring the Democratic party in as the solution. I do not mean to underappreciate what can be done in those years--but in the long view, perhaps the Democratic majority at that later time would be stronger.

I might close by noting that it seems this and recent posts run, to my eyes, contrary to your last comment on the blog I write for--have your feelings then so significantly changed?

Anglachel said...


You're not reading the whole post very carefully.

I'm not saying Lamont can't win. I'm saying he (and the party) have no other option.

There was no "message" to the party from your side, frankly. You rallied a bare majority of a small chunk of insider voters. The incumbent who should have won easily ran a shitty campaign and defeated himself.

Lamont didn't win. Lieberman lost.

I admit to underestimating Lieberman's ruthlessness. He's been scorned and humiliated by his party, and he is going to pay that pain back with interest. I had hoped, in late July, that Holy Joe would back down, and it was in this hope that I said Lamont could win. My concern was to counter voices that said he would lose the general in a *two-way* race.

So, Ned needs to get his ass in gear and win over the 30%+ of CT Democrats who are so unimpressed with him they'd vote for a political hack like Lieberman.

Talking about your conscience and sending a message is bubbles on the horse piss at this point. Either you win, or you don't, and by the nature and tone of your challenge, you've raised the stakes for losing.

That's politics. Deal.

And, please, put the Leninist "heightening the contradictions" style argument where the sun doesn't shine. Apart from being incredibly amoral, it has never been a winning strategy for the left. That was what Ralph Nader argued in 2000, and it was *so* effective in 2002 and 2004. I'm sure the residents of New Orleans are happy that you prefer they suffer for the cause than have a Democratic majority now.

Supporting your candidate is an admirable thing, even when the odds are against you. I'm proud of supporting Francine Busby, for example. I'm not criticizing Lamont for trying. I'm making clear the political costs of that attempt if it doesn't work.


J said...

Wow--a pretty harsh retort to what I had hoped was a constructive conversation starter. In reply to your opening, I don't think you read my comments particularly closely either, as things go, so perhaps we're even at least at the charge level--but that's ok. I don't think this conversation is heading in a productive direction, so I'll not invest in the details, but close quickly.

Only thing I'll offer, because you might appreciate it from a pragmatic point of view, is that your comment "And, please, put the Leninist 'heightening the contradictions' style argument where the sun doesn't shine" doesn't reflect the source of the argument at all--it comes from a book recommended via the blog, Arnold's _The Logic of Congressional Action_, and there's nothing Leninist about it--fundamentally, it's about voter cognitive load (coupled with some Gans-ian Middle American Individualism). And there is a history of it working for both parties. And it is not the Nader argument at all.