In my July 17 column, I predicted that Joe Lieberman would win Tuesday's Democratic primary in Connecticut. My dish of crow went down easier, however, after I read the hilarious editorial in the New York Times celebrating zillionaire businessman Ned Lamont's victory over Sen. Lieberman.
"The rebellion against Sen. Lieberman was actually an uprising by that rare phenomenon, irate moderates," the Times declared.
Flanking Mr. Lamont when he gave his victory speech were those famous moderates, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Just the faces, I'm sure, Democrats in swing districts want representing their party in the fall.
The Web logger the Anchoress was pulling for Sen. Lieberman, but said his narrow loss (Mr. Lamont won with less than 52 percent of the vote) "is not a bad thing, really. The far left is going to be emboldened, beside itself and insufferable. ... They'll overplay their perceived hands like mad."
Right on cue, filmmaker Michael Moore issued this threat to those Democrats who continue to support the war that 29 Democrats in the Senate and 81 Democrats in the House voted to authorize:
"Let the resounding defeat of Sen. Joe Lieberman send a cold shiver down the spine of every Democrat who supported the invasion of Iraq, and who continues to support, in any way, this senseless, immoral, unwinnable war," the porcine Robespierre said in an e-mail. "We will actively work to defeat each and every one of you who does not support an immediate end to this war."
The Web logger Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (Daily Kos) demanded that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid strip Sen. Lieberman of all his committee assignments.
Purges for deviating from the party line are the mark of Stalinist parties, not American ones. This is the third time the hard left has tried to capture the Democratic Party. (Henry Wallace failed in 1948; George McGovern succeeded, briefly, in 1972.)
The aging leftists who remember, fondly, the 1960s and 1970s as a time when they brought down two presidents and lost America a war think they have the wind at their backs. But it is one thing to win, narrowly, a Democratic primary in deep blue Connecticut, another to win a general election. Most analysts think Sen. Lieberman, running as an independent, will prevail in November.
Because Sen. McGovern was trounced so badly in 1972, the hard left's reign in the Democratic Party then was short-lived. It could be more durable now.
Even if Mr. Lamont loses in November, his primary victory will cast a long shadow over the Democrats' presidential nominating process. The "nutroots" gang have yet to demonstrate they can win a general election. But they have shown they can win a Democratic primary. You can bet that likely Democratic presidential contenders have taken notice.
And it's by no means certain Mr. Lamont will lose in November. Many Democrats who supported Sen. Lieberman will think of him as "Sore Loserman" for not abiding by the primary's verdict.
So the only clear winners at this writing are three embattled GOP House members in Connecticut, who will benefit from embracing Sen. Lieberman in what is, in effect, a race between two Democrats. (The Republican candidate is a cipher.)
Democrats think 2006 will be a reprise of 1974, when Democrats routed Watergate-battered Republicans. Republicans hope it will be a reprise of 1972, when popular revulsion at "cut and run" Democrats gave Richard Nixon the largest popular vote majority in history. We shall see.
Much is at stake. New York Daily News and JWR columnist Michael Goodwin said that if the "results are a window on the party's tilt, then a huge slice of the Democratic Party is willing to sit out the war to protect America."
The one thing that aggravated Mr. Lamont's supporters as much as Sen. Lieberman's support for the war in Iraq is his cordial relationship with President Bush. Sen. Lieberman disagrees with the president on virtually every issue except the war (and has been critical of how he has conducted it), but does not regard Mr. Bush as an enemy. But many Lamont supporters think Democrats should be waging guerrilla war against his administration, opposing whatever Mr. Bush is for, simply because he is for it.
I don't think it's possible for me to think less of Sen. John Kerry than I already do. But I would never compare him to monstrously evil people such as Osama bin Laden. Yet the "nutroots" gang routinely compare President Bush to Adolf Hitler.
When the Loyal Opposition becomes, simply, the opposition, that's a problem for that party. But it's a problem for the country, too.