Feature

Lieberman’s Loss

Are Democrats now the ‘anti-war party’?

It's official: Peaceniks have hijacked the Democratic Party, said Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal. The 'œknifing' of Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut last week proves it. As a three-term Senate veteran, former vice presidential nominee, and generally reliable liberal, Lieberman should have easily won his state's Democratic primary. Lieberman, though, also supports President Bush's war in Iraq—and for the Democratic faithful, that's simply unforgivable. So they vented their outrage by choosing Ned Lamont, 'œa one-issue neophyte' whose only message is his rabid opposition to the war. That's just Connecticut. But the party's broader fate was sealed when party leaders who have known and respected Lieberman for years promptly turned their backs on him, leaving him to run as a shunned Independent. 'œDemocrats aren't wrong when they say that the Lamont victory was a defining moment,' said Kathleen Parker in the Orlando Sentinel. 'œIt defined the Democratic Party as a vigorous, motivated, organized force—that is completely out of touch with mainstream America.'

Really? said Dick Polman in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Then how do you explain all those polls showing that a majority of Americans actually agree with Lamont? According to a new CNN poll, 61 percent of respondents think the time has come to start troop withdrawals from Iraq. An ABC/Washington Post poll, meanwhile, reports that for the first time, 'œBush is faulted more than he is praised for his handling of the war on terror.' In other words, the same public that embraced Republican hawkishness in 2002 and 2004 has had a dramatic change of heart. The 'œcenter of gravity' has shifted.

Not when it comes to national security, said Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard. As last week's foiled British terror plot made all too clear, the nation remains in grave danger, and Americans know it. Yet, as the Lamont win shows, Democrats have become 'œmore pacifist and more left-wing.' They obviously haven't learned from history, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post. During the Vietnam era, Democrats fell under the spell of McGovernite doves, and the party coalesced around the movement to end the war in Vietnam. As a result, Democrats lost sight of the larger global struggle against Soviet expansionism, and voters turned to Republicans who were willing and able to face down the communist threat. 'œVietnam cost the Democrats 40 years in the foreign policy wilderness.' Anti-Iraq sentiment may have given anti-war Democrats one big night in Connecticut, 'œbut beyond that, it will be desolation.'

That's reading way too much into one Senate primary, said Michael Tomasky in Slate.com. Lieberman's defeat doesn't represent a trend. Currently, eight Democratic Senate incumbents who, like Lieberman, voted for the use of force in Iraq are seeking re-election. Lieberman is the only one 'œwho faced or is facing a serious primary challenge because of the war.' Lamont's victory 'œscarcely means the end of moderation' for Democrats.

Jacob Weisberg

Slate.com

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