The people have spoken!

But what the heck did they say?

In the two most closely watched primary battles yesterday Joe Lieberman lost his bid for re-nomination to his senate seat to challenger Ned Lamont by something like 48.21% to 51.79% (less than four percent) and George Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney lost her bid for re-nomination to her seat to challenger Hank Johnson by something like 41% to 59%.

Kos is jubilant, proclaimiing Lamont’s victory a victory for “people-powered politics”.  I don’t begrudge the netroots their victory:  Lamont won; Lieberman lost.  I do, however, think it’s a bit of a stretch to characterize Lamont as a man of the people.  This is no Abe Lincoln.  He’s a multi-millionaire who’s a son of a wealthy and prominent Eastern Seaboard family.  If anything Lamont’s life story to date tells us that, if you start at the top, it’s possible to rise higher.  I think we already knew that.

Lamont’s political victory suggests that lack of relevant experience is not a barrier to holding higher office so long as you’re willing to spend vast sums of your own money pursuing that goal and a message that appeals to those most likely to vote in the primary.  I think we knew that, too.

In his concession speech last night Lieberman vowed to fight on:

“For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand,” he said of Tuesday’s Democratic primary results.

all but guaranteeing his run as an independent in November.  In an interview on Fox News this morning, Lieberman advisor and former Clinton defense attorney Lanny Davis characterized Lieberman’s loss as a result of the attacks of a wealthy challenger who appealed to the worst elements in the Democratic Party and a failure to respond to untrue attacks early enough.
As Davis also noted the political affiliations in Connecticut are 45% independent, 30% Democrat, 25% Republican.  Lamont’s victory with Democratic primary voters, typically the most committedly partisan, which was not sufficient to discourage  Lieberman from running as an independent nor, I believe, enough to encourage the regular Democratic Party leadership to distance themselves from Lieberman too unambiguously.

I have no doubt that there will be at least a perfunctory attempt to stop Lieberman from pursuing re-election as an independent.  As I suggested on Sunday I strongly suspect that the Democratic Party leadership will breathe a sigh of relief if Lieberman continues his run and, as is expected, is re-elected in November.

My first reaction to last night’s results with Lieberman, McKinney, and Schwarz all defeated was that there was an anti-incumbency movement at work.  But on reconsideration I’ve decided that, as James Joyner notes, the results are more clearly explained by issues specific to each individual campaign than some general movement against incumbents.

The Lieberman primary defeat is without doubt due to Lieberman’s failure to be more partisan and, as such, it’s yet another movement in the direction we’ve seen over the last 30 years.   Once upon a time there were right-leaning Democrats and left-leaning Republicans holding higher office but those are becoming increasingly scarce.  That tends to leave those, like me, who are less interested in partisanship and ideology without a comfortable home.
McKinney’s defeat tells us that there is a level of crazy sufficient that Georgia voters won’t tolerate it, at least when there’s a reasonable alternative available.  I gather that Schwarz, like Lieberman, was unable to get his base of support to the polls in numbers sufficient to win.

Joe Gandelman, of course, has a great commentary and round-up of blogospheric reaction to the results from a variety of positions on the political spectrum.

4 comments… add one
  • Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman loses but this “closet Republican” is no independent. His loss to Ned Lamont was a referendum on the Joseph Liebermann support for the Bush Iraq war. Now Liebermann says he plans to run as an independent in November. He also predicts that he would be returned to the Senate for a fourth term. This is the same Senator that predicted he would win the Democratic Primary, predicted he would be Vice President of the United States and predicted that we would find Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) in Iraq. Whatever!

    This “closet Republican” lost the election because of his “blind faith” in Bush and his support of the Bush war in Iraq. End of story.

    Candidly, I’m glad he lost. He was no Democrat and he is no independent. I hope other “closet Republicans” and other politicans both Democrat and Republican who support the Bush War in Iraq feel the wrath of the African-American voters in November.

  • One quibble– I would argue that it was not that Joe Schwarz did not get his base out sufficiently, it was that Joe Schwarz’ base was too small to begin with. He had won his primary in ’04 with significantly less than 40% of the tally. I believe it was closer to 25%.

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