The question most frequently asked in Connecticut of right-wing voters is: Whom do you intend to vote for on Nov. 7? There are only two patriotic answers to that, but hang on as the drama unfolds.
Voting is what you do every two years, and then, mostly, repine, wondering whether democracy really does anything for you beyond giving that little throb of tactile pleasure in recording your enthusiasm for one candidate or -- and this pleasure is very keen -- your loathing for another candidate. That last is a vital contribution to democratic hygiene, effected by candidates who arouse every hate gland in your withered frame, thereby offering a pure draught of remedial youthful joy, and you leave the voting booth humming "John Brown's Body."
The all-time generator of negative conservative satisfactions was Lowell Weicker. He was first senator from Connecticut, then governor. He was the king of Schadenfreude: dispenser of the nectar of health and satisfaction when we conservatives had a chance to vote against him. It is a prime chapter in this narrative that the man who defeated Weicker in 1988 was none other than -- Joseph Lieberman. What that adds up to is a huge debt to Lieberman felt by Connecticut conservatives.
Now three alternatives are offered to the voters in November. One of them is to vote for the Democratic nominee, Ned Lamont, who defeated Lieberman in the primary.
Ned Lamont hasn't been around long enough to generate true 100-proof animosity. But he is off to a very good start. He has criticized everything President Bush has done and said respecting our presence in Iraq, and has associated himself with the national left-wing opposition to a foreign policy that seeks to confront anti-American activity abroad and to intervene where necessary to interrupt the evolution of terrorism.
This, of course, makes the critical difference in contemporary politics, in Connecticut and elsewhere. Irrespective of one's position on the Iraq campaign, do we want to endorse a neo-isolationist removal from the world scene? Such a movement as would satisfy MoveOn.org? Those are the people so enthusiastic about the defeat of Lieberman, which practically speaking can't be done without electing Lamont.
It is required, in telling the whole story, to acknowledge that there is a Republican nominee. His name is Alan Schlesinger, and as of this writing, he has not broken into two-digit life in the polls.
Connecticut periodically acknowledges the two-party system, as for instance by tolerating a Republican governor, who is very popular and anticipates re-election. But Mr. Schlesinger got hung up on casino questions when he was mayor of Derby and has not emerged as a viable contender.
This makes the reasoning of the conservative voter complicated. There is an understandable reluctance to cast a ballot the effect of which could be to turn the Senate of the United States over to Democratic management. The organizational vote is very tight. The Democrats need to gain six seats in order to organize the Senate next January.
Mr. Lieberman -- just to begin with -- is not an orthodox conservative. He is closer to being an orthodox liberal. If you subtracted from his record his important votes on international affairs, he would emerge as a blue-ribbon Democrat, the kind of Democrat a Democratic presidential candidate could comfortably tag for vice president. It is not surprising, then, that, even though Lieberman is running as an independent, he has said that if sent back to the Senate, he would join with the Democrats to organize the chamber. And, conceivably, his vote would be critical.
Now add to this complication a further factor. Much of the enthusiasm for Joe Lieberman over the years has been from mainstream Democrats. Their loyalty to Lieberman is striking, but in politics, vows of fidelity are renewable every 24 hours. During the primary campaign, both Bill and Hillary Clinton supported Lieberman. After the primary, however, they both shifted over to Lamont, with Bill Clinton giving as his reason that Lieberman had accepted the "Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld" position on the invasion of Iraq.
We leave for last, as is expected in political tallying, the factor of temperament and character. Joe Lieberman is a singular human being. He has personal support from people who know him, and who sense in him a true love for God and country.