The Last Liberal?
Over at World Affairs Journal, James Kirchick has a remarkable piece on former Senator Joe Lieberman, one that, fair warning, matches my own perceptions as a former campaign volunteer for the Senator perfectly:
In January 2004, the New Republic endorsed Joe Lieberman for president. By this time, recriminations against Democrats who had supported the Iraq War (or, in the parlance of the American left, “Bush’s War”) had already begun to arise in mainstream liberal circles, and the magazine’s decision was unpopular with many of its readers. The young, online-savvy movement behind Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who had won over the party’s base and much of the liberal intelligentsia with his virulent attacks against the Iraq War, appeared to be the wave of the Democratic future.
…nonetheless, the Democratic senator from Connecticut and 2000 vice-presidential candidate, the flagship journal of liberal opinion declared, offered the “clearest, bravest alternative” to Dean’s “self-righteous delusion.” The Vermont governor, the magazine argued, represented the “old Democratic affliction” of “an excessive faith in multilateralism and an insufficient faith in the moral potential of US power.”
Four years later, the New Republic would decry the “Zell Millerization” of Lieberman, a reference to the Democratic Georgia senator who endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 with a rabid speech at the Republican National Convention. This was an absurd analogy, not least because of the men’s completely different temperaments (Lieberman, whatever his political virtues, can scarcely vary the tone of his voice). Mainly, though, Miller had actually voted more often with Republicans than with his fellow Democrats, whereas Lieberman boasted a party loyalty record higher than fourteen of his Democratic colleagues. That year, Lieberman earned an eighty-five percent rating from Americans for Democratic Action. No matter. Lieberman had “become a cog in the Republican message machine,” the magazine declared. “He’s becoming a standard-issue conservative,” Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic when it endorsed Lieberman, would later bemoan in the Daily Beast.
The recent passing of former South Dakota senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern, coming at the time of Lieberman’s retirement from the Senate, has the feeling of a recessional. The two men, a generation apart, represented starkly different Democratic Party traditions on foreign policy. McGovern’s mantra of “Come Home, America” was the antithesis of practically everything Lieberman has espoused over his more than two decades on the national political scene. Lacking in many of the fawning obituaries of McGovern was the fact that he had been a delegate to the 1948 convention that nominated Henry Wallace the presidential candidate of the Progressive Party, a Communist Party front. Lieberman, meanwhile, though too young to have been involved in politics at the time, often cites Harry Truman—who fired Wallace as his secretary of commerce over his pro-Soviet views—as his political hero.
As a continuing admirer of Senator Lieberman, it’s remarkable how well my views of him match this article. Indeed, the article lays out well one of many reasons why I feel I can no longer consider either the Democratic or Republican party my home.
But I suggest you read the whole thing.