Paul  Weyrich

So much has been said about the defeat of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) that I am not sure I can add to the discussion. Lieberman, having lost the Democratic Primary, filed the necessary papers to run as an independent, which in most any other state would be considered a suicide mission. Not in the Nutmeg State. For example, in 1988, with the backing of many conservatives, Joe Lieberman was elected to the Senate, defeating three-term liberal Republican Senator Lowell P. Weicker (R-CT). Well and good. A few years later, Weicker ran and won the Governorship of Connecticut as an independent. In 1970 Senator Thomas J. Dodd (D-CT) had run for re-election as an independent and lost. Dodd had been censured by the United States Senate for allegedly misusing campaign funds. Most Democrats voted to censure Dodd, so he quit the Democratic Party. Unlike his son, the current Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), the elder Dodd was a staunch anti-Communist. Senator Russell B. Long (D-LA) led the opposition to the censure of Dodd. He hinted that Dodd was being punished for his views. Moreover, Long said, if every Senator were to confess to misusing campaign funds the Senate Chamber would be empty. But I digress.

There have been a few Independents through the years but each chose to caucus with one party or the other. Senator Wayne L. Morse (R-OR) was elected from Oregon as a Republican. In the middle of the Eisenhower first term, Morse declared he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent. But, he said, since he had been elected as a Republican he would continue to caucus with the Republicans. In 1956, when Morse ran for re-election, he went the distance and became a Democrat. In 1968, Morse was defeated by Senator Robert W. Packwood (R-OR).

In 1970, not one but two independents were elected to the United States Senate. In Virginia, liberal Democrats ousted Senator Harry F. Bird, Jr. Bird turned around and won re-election as an independent. Oddly enough, although the Republicans made it clear that Byrd would be welcome in the Republican Caucus, Byrd chose to caucus with the Democrats. Byrd was more conservative than almost all Republicans. Just why he would want to caucus with the liberal party isn't clear, but both he and his father before him were long-serving Democrats.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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