Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Will Lieberman’s Endorsement Of Shays Matter?

An endorsement by current U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman in the race for the senate seat he will vacate when his term expires just might, unlike the usual light-as-air endorsements of has-been politicians, carry some weight.

Mr. Lieberman is loathed by Democratic leftists in Connecticut. Hell hath no fury like that of a progressive scorned.

Progressive radicals, feeling their oats, were prepared to rejoice heartily and even strew a few rose petals at the senator’s feet had he yielded to them following the Lieberman-Lamont primary, which was won by progressive heartthrob Ned Lamont. Mr. Lieberman, however, was not prepared to go quietly into that good night of whipped politicians; and so, having lost the primary, he challenged Mr. Lamont in a three way general election – and won.

This was not the way to win friends and influence Connecticut progressives. If the progressive movement in Connecticut had an imam in it, a political fatwa would have been urged against Mr. Lieberman by progressives such as former Lamont campaign director Tom Swan, the head of the far left Connecticut Citizens Action Group (CCAG).

Mr. Lieberman’s political activity in the senate following his general election defeat of Mr. Lamont has only enraged the progressives further. While Mr. Lieberman, a professed Independent, has caucused with Democrats in the Senate, he has, on some issues of importance to progressives -- war and peace, for example -- gone his own way. Mr. Lieberman’s primary loss to Mr. Lamont , the senator claimed, liberated him to be his own man. In this, he has followed in the wake of another party-independent, former senator and governor, no-man-but-yours Lowell Weicker, infamous for using his party as a foil to advance his own political interests.

Now comes what may be Mr. Lieberman’s final bow-out blow – a possible endorsement of Republican Chris Shays for Mr. Lieberman’s’ soon to be open seat. According to a recent report in “The Hill,” Mr. Shays, who has announced he intends to challenge in a Republican primary former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, is a longtime friend and colleague of Mr. Lieberman.

Mr. Lieberman does carry some weight in what used to be called moderate wing of the Democratic Party, but in recent years that wing has been clipped by lean and hungry progressives, even as the moderate wing of the Republican Party has moved rightward. The political gap between Republicans and Democrats over the past couple of decades has not become deeper or wider; but as bridges continue to be burned, the gap becomes more and more unbridgeable. Friendly gestures across the political aisle are now considered treacherous displays of near treason by those in warring camps with knives in their brains. The vital center now has been cleft in two. There are two moderate centers, a remnant in New England within the Republican Party and a Southern moderate faction within the Democratic Party.

Mr. Shays is part of New England’s nearly vanished moderate Republican nub, and though he has said his eyes are fixed on the general election prize, he must get over the hump of a primary to compete in a general election. A world has changed since Mr. Shays last strutted his moderation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Losing a race to present U.S. Rep. Jim Himes in 2008, Mr. Shays, who following his defeat left Connecticut for points south, became the last Republican moderate in New England, the first time in almost 150 years that no Republican represented the New England states in the nation’s capital.

Some have accused Mr. Shays of being a carpetbagger, a foolish claim easily disposed of. The real sticking point is that, the political vectors having changed radically since Mr. Shays left the congress, time may have made of moderation a pointless exercise in futility.

Where is the point where a moderate may safely stand as Connecticut and the union both totter towards a Grecian denouement?

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