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.
Engaged in a contest of national significance, Lieberman will be contending with the well-heeled American Left, and these are big spenders. Orthodox Democrats are conventionally linked to primary winners, so that Mr. Lieberman can't count on heavy support except from wealthy Democrats who share his passion for seeing through the engagement in Iraq.
Here, the commitments of American Jews become relevant. Our venture in Iraq has no direct bearing on the safety of Israel but a huge indirect bearing on Mideast terrorism. The threat to Israel is greatly fortified by the factor of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, and a potential Iranization of Iraq if the U.S. effort is abandoned.
Which leaves support for him enlivened by gratitude for his tenacity on the terrorist question. Plus also, for those who know him, personal respect, which, in the case of this journalist, dates back 40 years, when we shared a human burden -- an obligation to an old employee of the Yale Daily News -- and had no trouble in our long colloquy as friends and fellow Americans.
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