But I GET to be Senator! I'm the Senator!
I'm becoming obsessed with the Connecticut primary between Senator Joe Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont. Normally, I wouldn't care much about a primary that I can't vote in but this one has turned out to be truly unique as Lieberman, an 18 year senate veteran has now publicly declared that if he loses the primary that he'll seek to run in the general election as an indepedent.
The election is about policy and Connecticut's Democrats have to choose between an incumbent who has backed President Bush not only on the war in Iraq but on his judicial appointments and on the bankruptcy bill and a challenger who promises more active dissent, especially on the Iraq matter.
From an outsider's perspective, the whole episode is a revealing display of what an educated and normally good-hearted man will do in order to maintain the power that he's won for himself. By promising to run as an independent, Lieberman is promising that he'll split the vote in the general election and that he's willing to risk splitting it to such an extent that Connecticut, a pretty blue state, might wind up sending a Republican to the Senate.
Lieberman has also seemed annoyed that he even has to endure a primary. I spoke with a press person at his campaign today and I asked why Lieberman seemed so angry during the debate with Lamont and the only answer I received was that he was "smiling the whole time." As if an obviously angry person who interrupted his opponent at every opportunity can't glue a smile onto his face. Also, he wasn't smiling the whole time.
Also, during the debate, Lieberman borrowed techniques from Ronald Reagan, including the famous phrase "There you go again," which he used a few times. Also, after the debate, Lieberman fled the building and left a press person behind while Lamont confidently faced the press himself. Two interpretations there: One is that Lamont had to stay and face the press because he's a political nobody but the second is that Lieberman just didn't want to find himself facing a primary opponent at all and that he finds this whole siituation insulting. I'm leaning towards the latter.
Because Lamont is a multimillionaire, Lieberman has frequently insinuated that his opponent is either out of touch or that he's got something to hide. During the debate, Lieberman asked Lamont to publicly release his IRS filings. Well, I look forward to seeing and analyzing Lamont's tax returns. But, given my job, I see information about really rich people all of the time and while I have seen my shares of cheaters and shortcutters, I've also seen that it's possible to amass a whole lot of money by the letter of the law. As for Lieberman's first point, that Lamont is out of touch: Lamont might be worth up to $300 million. That's a lot. But Lieberman might be worth up to $2 million (excluding real estate). That's also a lot. Remember, most people aren't worth $100,000 if real estate isn't factored in. When you factor in real estate, you're talking about a home worth, maybe, a quarter million and that's during a real estate bubble. Lamont is way richer than Lieberman, sure. But Lieberman is way richer than you. If Lamont's out of touch, so is Lieberman.
What really irks me about this whole race is the idea that because Lieberman is a sitting senator that he's somehow above facing a tough primary challenger. He isn't. No sitting, elected government offical is. None should be. These people should always be answering for themselves. They should be in constant fear of losing their jobs. It's actually sad that it takes something like this for one of them to suddenly turn nervous.
Lieberman only cares about keeping his office on the Hill. He'll do anything for that, including leaving the party. Oh, he'll say stuff like he's a "petitioning Democrat" but that's bogus. The Democrat wins the party primary. I don't mind a guy running as an indepedent. Hell, I have big problems with the two party system. But an indepedent should actually be one and embrace the identity. An indepedent is not a person who will use the party system for nearly two decades and then drop it to stay in power while still claiming to be a part of it because they don't really have the guts to go it alone.