It's also nonsense to say this is about "the people" vs. "the establishment." Lieberman's a three-term junior senator. Ted Kennedy, scion of America's leading liberal dynasty, has been in the Senate 26 years longer. Is he not the establishment? Robert Byrd of West Virginia has been in the Senate since the mid-Jurassic period. That old, calcified chewing gum stuck underneath the establishment's chair? He put it there. But while Kennedy and Byrd (and Gore, Howard Dean, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton) outrank Lieberman in establishment credentials, they arouse little ire from the Net-mob because they say what the throng wants to hear. (Hillary is a slight exception.) "The establishment" is just code for "people we don't like."
The hawk-vs.-dove analysis has similar weaknesses. The netroots crowd is passionately antiwar, while Lieberman supports the war. But there are other Iraq war supporters whom the Democratic base hasn't targeted, such as Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who is also up for re-election.
Meanwhile, Lieberman claims that the war is the only thing distinguishing him from Lamont. That's not exactly right. Lieberman isn't only pro-war, he's seen as pro-Bush - a far greater sin. While the netroots crowd calls Lieberman "scum" and a "lying" this or that, its most damaging attack is a picture worth a thousand dirty words. It's of Bush kissing Lieberman on the cheek, and anti-Joe jihadists have posted it everywhere in the lefty blogosphere.
Hatred of Bush drives - or poisons - almost everything in liberal politics now. Chait himself wrote a bilious cover story for the New Republic in 2003 explaining why he hates everything, and I mean everything, about Bush. And just this week, Chait defended the proposition that Bush is a greater threat to the United States than Osama bin Laden because Bush has "wreaked enormous damage on the political and social fabric of the country" and has "strained the fabric of American democracy." And Chait is seen as a moderate by the Daily Kos crowd.
But hatred of Bush is just one side of the coin. The other is this bizarre, almost pathetic yearning for Democratic self-esteem. It was amazing how much of the rhetoric from the recent Daily Kos convention in Las Vegas was about standing up, fighting back and feeling proud to be Democrats.
This liberal-pride crowd likes "fighting Dems," and open expression of Bush hatred is the litmus test for whether you're a fighting Dem. You can be a moderate, like Virginia Senate hopeful Jim Webb or former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, or a flaming liberal, like Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, and that's fine as long as you'll stand up and fight and refuse to take this (expletive deleted) from that (expletive deleted) anymore. In fact, you can believe anything you want. You don't actually have to have big ideas. The important part is that you care.