Paul Greenberg

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the Democratic Party. Because if Tuesday's election returns in Connecticut are any indication, it's taking a well-traveled road - right over a cliff.

Think about it: The Dems now have lost two successive presidential elections, they've been unable to break the GOP's hold on Congress that dates back to the watershed congressional elections of 1994, and now they've managed to defeat . . . Joe Lieberman.

And even Lonesome Joe, though down and lonesomer, may not be out, since he plans to come back as an "independent Democratic" candidate in November. That's when he hopes all those blue-collar Democrats in his state, aka Reagan Democrats, will help him overcome his opponent's millions and blogs.

But even if he wins, the Democratic Party will have lost its last honest-to-goodness Harry Truman/John F. Kennedy/Scoop Jackson figure. Which would be a pity - and a bad sign for the future. Because when the party loses touch with the peace-through-strength strain of its history, it loses touch with a lot of voters.

While other leading Democrats are busy triangulating when it comes to this increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, Lonesomer Joe is sticking with his convictions. Namely, his belief that the West is now engaged in another worldwide struggle against an implacable, fanatical foe - a contest it had better win, whether the shifting battlefield is in Iraq, on the Israeli-Lebanese border, Ground Zero in Manhattan, or wherever suicide bombers strike.

Yes, it is a disparate enemy we face, but so was the peculiar axis of German Nazis, Italian fascists and Japanese imperialists. But they were united in their hatred of freedom. Just as Iran's mullahs and their accessories are today. Even if their enablers in the Western world seem unable to recognize as much. Talk abut retro, it's hard to read the news today without feeling intimations of the 1930s.

Joe Lieberman now has paid the price for following his conscience instead of the public opinion polls. He didn't have to. He could have softened his support for this war, taken refuge in slippery clinton clauses, and remained a Democrat in good standing. But as he said in his combination concession speech and campaign opener No. 2, that's not who he is.

Whatever now happens to Sen. Lieberman's political career isn't nearly as important as what is happening to his party, which is fast being converted into a subsidiary of

Sound familiar? It does to Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, which is scarcely a Republican publication. Ned Lamont, now the official Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut, reminds editor Peretz of the fatal charm George McGovern exerted over his party back in 1972, when another divisive war was raging in Vietnam.

Running against a president even his supporters may have had their doubts about, Sen. McGovern managed to lose every state but one and the District of Columbia that year. Is political history about to repeat itself? To quote Mr. Peretz:

"The Lamont ascendancy, if that is what it is, means nothing other than that the left is trying, and in places succeeding, to take back the Democratic Party. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters have stumped for Mr. Lamont. As I say, we have been here before. Ned Lamont is Karl Rove's dream come true. If he, and others of his stripe, carry the day, the Democratic Party will lose the future, and deservedly."

Well, we'll see. There are no sure things in politics. But it's clear to some of us that Lamontism is just McGovernism redux. Call it the New Isolationism. It might even be successful at the polls this time out. The old one was - till Dec. 7, 1941. Still, I can't think of a better way to enhance Republican chances in 2008 than to remodel the Democratic Party in the image of George McGovern. (Think how well a McCain-Giuliani ticket might do against a Ned Lamont type atop the Democratic ticket.)

Let's hope it doesn't come to that. Because what's bad for the Democratic Party has a way of being bad for the country. When one of the two parties in a two-party system gets taken over by its True Believers, the balance that the system is supposed to provide is threatened. Which is why now is the time for all good men - and women - to come to the aid of the party.

Happily, there was also some good news for the Democrats in Tuesday's election returns: Cynthia McKinney, the strange Democratic congresswoman from Georgia, lost her primary. Her great accomplishment in office this term was avoiding indictment after getting into a scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer, just as her great contribution to the national dialogue has been her conspiracy theory about the Bush administration's somehow being in on the Sept. 11 attacks.

McKinneyism is even worse than McGovernism. But at least for the next two years, we'll be spared The Hon. C. McKinney's less-than-endearing presence in Congress. Now there's a prospect to cheer Democrats and Republicans alike.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.