Partisan Republicans are quite keen on the Democrats’ netroots. First championed by Howard Dean as the Democratic wing of the Democratic party they are, in large part, the unelectable wing of the Democratic Party.
They aren’t just anti-war, uncompromisingly civil libertarian, hateful towards George W Bush, welfarist and opposed to most of the traditional causes that motivate religious conservatives… they’re also shrill and intensely partisan.
The Democrat netroots scored their biggest victory in August when their chosen anti-war candidate – Ned Lamont - ousted incumbent Joe Lieberman as the Democrat candidate for today’s Connecticut Senate contest.
It was an extraordinary illustration of the way anti-war forces have come to dominate the Democratic party and partly explains why always anti-war Senator Barack Obama is emerging as a credible challenger to Hillary Clinton (who voted for the Iraq war) as the party’s 2008 presidential nominee.
After Lamont’s victory the Democratic establishment encouraged Lieberman to stand aside. Clinton, Dean and Kerry all told the party’s 2000 VP candidate (pictured right with Al Gore) that he was finished.
Lieberman ignored that advice and now enjoys a double-digit lead over Lamont in most opinion polls. That lead will probably be whittled away today as the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote operation helps Lamont close the gap but it will not be enough.
Connecticut’s more independent voters and moderate Democrats have been repelled by the ideological anger of the Lamont candidacy. Lamont has spent $12m of his own money on his bid to be Senator but, for once, money won’t determine a US election. Lieberman’s fierce independence of spirit looks set to return this hawkish Senator to Washington. It will be one result that will bring a smile to George W Bush’s face.
Although the Iraq war is clearly unpopular with American voters the Republicans are calculating that toughness on national security will play to their long-term advantage - particularly when it comes to choosing the next President. If the Democrats fail to learn the lesson of the Lamont candidacy they may ensure that the Republicans keep the White House.