In the Stalin era, Communist Party members perceived as impure — deviationists — were variously read out of the party, decreed forgotten by diktat, rubbed out of photographs, sentenced to forever in the gulag, or shot. These days, ideological purists in the Democratic Party are flattened by the big ol’ leftie steamroller.
That’s what happened Tuesday to Joe Lieberman — the Connecticut Democratic senator who was Al Gore’s vice-presidential running mate six years ago.
Lieberman’s defeat in the Democratic primary is viewed broadly as indicative of how President Bush and the Long War on Terror will play in the congressional elections this fall. Maybe. More likely, it marks the leftist roll-up of moderation in the party’s ranks.
Lieberman is for all intents the party’s last nationally known moderate — and if not the last, then certainly its most visible and symbolic one. His sins — his principal deviations — are: (1) his support generally for President Bush’s policies abroad; and (2) his support for the successful prosecution of the Long War on Terror. Lieberman subscribes to the dominant view of Democrats in the 20th century that hyperpartisanship properly ends at the water’s edge.
Lieberman has said:
— On terror: “I want to get our troops home (from Iraq) as fast as anyone, probably more than most, and as I have repeatedly said, I am not for an open-ended commitment. But if we simply give up and pull out now, like my opponent wants to do, then it would be a disaster for Iraqis and for us.”
— On a Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote last November, much criticized in leftist circles: “I wasn’t thinking as a Democrat. I was thinking as an American senator who went to Iraq and saw some progress and wanted to report it to the American people because I feel so deeply that the way this ends will have serious consequences for the future of this country.”
Such views now, as with his 1998 Senate speech blasting Bill Clinton for licentious sex with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, are deemed unforgivable by the high priests behind the curtain in the leftist confession booth. And so — by presumed bipartisans — was the public peck he received from the president following the 2005 State of the Union address.
Gore and John Kerry refused to endorse Lieberman in the primary. Hillary Clinton backed him but said should he lose, she would not back him in precisely the independent run he announced immediately following his primary defeat. That is the same sniveling position taken by Virginia’s Gov. Tim Kaine (giver of this year’s State of the Union response — remember?) in an election-eve conversation with reporters.
Proclaiming himself “a big Lieberman friend and supporter,” Kaine said: “Politics is kind of a team sport. It would be divisive to the party for him to run as an independent” — and urged him “not to.” Thereby, Kaine (and Hillary Clinton) aligned with the loyalists on Team Democrat trying to put someone else in Lieberman’s Senate seat. Some would call that sort of loyalty “betrayal.”
Many national Democrats have refused to accept the presidency of George Bush as real. They despise the guy and seek to thwart him at every turn — on tax cuts, Social Security reform, judicial appointments, energy independence and — most of all — the war against jihadist terror. As happens in so many revolutions, the revolution for the Democratic soul has begun to eat its own, such as Joe Lieberman.
But is it really revolution? Or is it reaction — re-purification, re-McGovernization, a reaching back to the post-’60s hippiedom finally ended (despite his other manifold faults) by Bill Clinton? Joe Lieberman has spoken eloquently and often about the dangers facing a Democratic Party too far left. Now his predictions have come true in his own primary defeat.
The Republicans have their own splits — big ones. Yet a party tends to win to the extent it can combine its factions come election time. In purging the Liebermans, the Democrats are saying they would rather go without their moderate faction than combine with it. Deviationists from party dogma, dissenters from the Pelosi-Reid-Dean-Kerry-Gore-(Hillary) Clinton dialectic, need not apply.
And perhaps the most troubling aspect of all? With the defeat of Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party — thus purified — spurns the banner of moral seriousness. Oh, yes, and the war on terror? An increasingly isolationist party spurns that too, preferring to pull the plug rather than to see it through.