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Jewish World Review
August 15, 2006
/ 21 Menachem-Av, 5766
Primary Colors: What sets Lieberman apart from fellow Democrats is his belief in America
Sen. Joseph Lieberman's narrow defeat in Connecticut's Democratic primary on Tuesday tells us something important about his party. Mr. Lieberman, who is running in November as an independent, can argue plausibly that his loss represented the judgment of only a sliver of the electorate: Connecticut, where most major-party nominations are decided by party conventions, has a tradition of low participation in primaries, and less than one-sixth of the registered voters took the trouble to cast their ballots in this contest. The winner, Ned Lamont, thus got the votes of less than one-tenth of Connecticut voters.
Still, this was a well-publicized contest, and one in which Sen. Lieberman's opponents had reason, from their point of view, to target him. And not just for his staunch support of the American military action in Iraq. On a number of issues, Mr. Lieberman has been at odds with large constituencies in the Democratic Party.
As an observant Orthodox Jew, he has consistently portrayed himself as a man of religious faith, while one-quarter of John Kerry voters in 2004 described their religion as "other" or "none." He has been a critic of vulgarity and obscenity in television programs and movies, while the Democrats enjoy massive financial and psychic support from Hollywood. He has supported school-choice measures, while one of his party's major organized constituencies is the teachers' unions. And he has been an American exceptionalist a believer in the idea that this is a special and specially good country while his party's base is increasingly made up of people with attitudes that are, in professor Samuel Huntington's term, transnational. In their view, our country is no better than any other, and in many ways it's a whole lot worse.
Through most of the 20th century, American exceptionalism has been the creed of both of our major parties. Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, for all their sophisticated knowledge of foreign cultures, were exceptionalists just as much as Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Among voters, transnational attitudes were espoused by only a very few, in the odd corners of university faculty clubs, investment-banking firm dining rooms and the councils of shop floor socialist intellectuals.
Now it's different. In 2004, pollster Scott Rasmussen asked two questions relating to American exceptionalism: Is this country generally fair and decent? Would the world be better off if more countries were more like America? About two-thirds of voters answered yes to both questions. About 80% of George W. Bush voters answered yes. John Kerry voters were split down the middle, with yeses outnumbering noes by small margins. That's reminiscent of the story about the Teamster Union business agent who was in the hospital and received a bouquet of flowers with a note that read, "The executive board wishes you a speedy recovery by a vote of 9-6." Not exactly a wholehearted endorsement.
The Connecticut primary reveals that the center of gravity in the Democratic Party has moved, from the lunch-bucket working class that was the dominant constituency up through the 1960s to the secular transnational professional class that was the dominant constituency in the 2004 presidential cycle. You can see the results on the map. Joe Lieberman carried by and large the same cities and towns that John F. Kennedy carried in the 1960 presidential general election.
Ned Lamont carried most of the cities and towns that were carried by Richard Nixon. In Stamford, where Joe Lieberman grew up the son of a liquor-store owner, and where there are still sizeable blue-collar and black communities, Mr. Lieberman won with 55% of the vote. In next-door Greenwich, where Ned Lamont (like former President George H.W. Bush) grew up as the scion of an investment banker family, and where the housing values are now among the highest in the nation, Mr. Lamont won with 68% of the vote. If Mr. Lamont wins in November, he will be just one of several members of a Democratic caucus who have made, inherited or married big money.
The working class Democrats of the mid-20th century voted their interests, and knew that one of their interests was protecting the nation in which they were proud to live. The professional class Democrats of today vote their ideology and, living a life in which they are insulated from adversity, feel free to imagine that America cannot be threatened by implacable enemies. They can vote to validate their lifestyle choices and their transnational attitudes.
In the mid-20th century the core constituencies of both the Democratic and the Republican Parties stood foursquare for America's prosecution of World War II and the Cold War. Today, as the Connecticut results suggest, it's different. The core constituency of the Republican Party stands foursquare for America's prosecution of the global struggle against Islamofascist terrorism and solidly on the side of Israel in its struggle against the same forces. The core constituency of the Democratic Party wants to stand aside from the global struggle and, as the presence of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton at Mr. Lamont's side on election night suggests, is not necessarily on the side of Israel. It's not your father's Democratic Party.
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Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future
Now, more than ever, the melting pot must be used to keep America great. Barone attacks multiculturalism and anti-American apologists--but he also rejects proposals for building a wall to keep immigrants out, or rounding up millions of illegals to send back home. Rather, the melting pot must be allowed to work (as it has for centuries) to teach new Americans the values, history, and unique spirit of America so they, too, can enjoy the American dream.. Sales help fund JWR.
JWR contributor Michael Barone is a columnist at U.S. News & World Report. Comment by clicking here.
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