It's no wonder that so much time is being given to the Democratic primary in Connecticut, and that so many voices are being heard. The ideological triumphalists proclaim it a great renewal in the Democratic Party, beginning with the glorious purge of Sen. Joseph Lieberman. There are, of course, difficulties with this reading.
Most obvious is the narrowness of the victory. Lieberman lost by four points. Moreover, only 20 percent of Connecticut Democrats actually participated in the purge, which would appear to make it less than plebiscitary.
According to one poll, 30 percent of Connecticut Democrats classify themselves as "liberal." But 60 percent of the anti-Lieberman vote was done by voters who classify themselves as liberal. This figure is not surprising. Candidates who challenge incumbents are usually inflamed by a single cause, and it was always clear that Ned Lamont wanted to rescind the war in Iraq and may have been encouraged enough by the primary victory to go one step further and attempt to rescind the war on terrorism; indeed his inflation is such that he might go yet further, by attempting to rescind terrorism.
The practical question, of course, is what Lieberman should now do, detached from the formal apparatus of the Democratic Party.
If he has any thought, as he apparently does, of challenging the challengers, he will have to wait for the first credible opinion poll to weigh in. If the Quinnipiac poll (for instance) shows Lieberman substantially ahead of Lamont two months from now, the enthusiasts for Lieberman's ouster will be cold-shouldered as summer soldiers, unqualified for the long strategic fight ahead for the redefinition of the Democratic Party.
Lieberman needs here to rely on his prestige as a three-term senator, on his natural affability, which is everywhere acknowledged, and on his sense of mission in the matter of international terrorism, dramatized on Thursday with the news of the intended assaults on trans-Atlantic airplane travel. A critical problem for Lieberman is financial support. Another problem is campaign workers. Most interesting is the story that ran in the New York Sun. It points out that campaign professionals tend to be linked to one party or the other. Working for a candidate who is running as an independent could damage their careers. So Lieberman may well have to rely on his Senate staff, which is intensely loyal to him, to run much of his campaign.