Friday, August 11, 2006

Respecting Joe

I have a good deal of respect for Joe Lieberman, Democratic Senator from Connecticut. I agree with him some, and disagree with him some, but he has always seemed principled and consistent, both of which are scarce political commodities. Of all the Democratic candidates in the last Presidential election, I thought he was the one I could come closest to giving my vote, although there's a fairly long list of reasons why I probably wouldn't. I've said before, I'm a Conservatarian: small government, lots of freedom, minimal spending, and living babies. Strong defense. It's the strong defense part where Lieberman garners my respect, even if he would have trouble getting my vote. It's the strong defense part which just lost him the Senatorial primary in his own state. Apparently, in Connecticut, supporting the Iraq war, the general War on Terror (terrible name--we really need something more accurate to call it) and Israel are punishable offenses.

The Democratic party really turned on Lieberman with this election. Prominent Democrats endorsed his opponent, and the liberal blogosphere gave him no quarter, vilifying him for his stand on defense, despite the fact that on other issues he toes a pretty solid party line. The result is a loss for Lieberman in the primary, but many pundits say that won't be the end of the story. Lieberman has announced he will run as an independent, and most of the commentary I've read has said he's likely to win in a landslide; he's a very popular Senator with the voters-at-large of his state. It will be interesting, if he does indeed win, to watch the Democratic party try to woo back his favor and cooperation. I can just hear all the private reassurances that, "I always supported you, Joe." Talk is famously cheap, however, and I wonder how Lieberman will view his new position as Independent.

James Pinkerton, at TCS Daily, says that the reason the party turned on Lieberman with such animosity is that they view him as a heretic, a true believer who has strayed from the fold. He explains the difference between a heretic and an infidel:

Here's the distinction: An infidel is someone who never believed what you believe; an infidel is a stranger, and so there's not much point in investing emotions in him. But a heretic is someone you know well, someone who once believed what you believe, but now has a different faith -- that's much more threatening. You often fight wars against infidels, and in those wars you seek to defeat, even destroy, the enemy. But with heretics, even tougher measures are needed, because the threat of heresy is so much more insidious, threatening to eat away the true faith. So you launch inquisitions against heretics, to eliminate even the thought of heresy. The proper anti-heretical strategy is to torture 'em, make 'em confess, make 'em repent -- and then kill 'em.
Pinkerton says the result was that Lieberman was targeted for especially vengeful measures:

So Lieberman had not only to be defeated, but to be crushed and vilified. Which he was. Lieberman supporter Lanny Davis detailed in the pages of The Wall Street Journal all "the hate and vitriol of bloggers on the liberal side of the aisle" that poured down on his candidate, including scurrilous anti-Semitism.
Now, according to Pinkerton, the Democratic blogosphere is hitting Joe even harder, since he's declared a third party candidacy. Ironically, there are accusations that he's a traitor, "stabbing them in the back." Huh? He's stabbing them in the back? Somebody needs to take a course in logic.

Pinkerton also points out, though, that this phenomenon isn't limited to Lieberman, nor, in fact, to Democrats. He's got some fine examples of Republicans eating their own, as well. The polarization of politics in America continues. Some purges, of course can be a good thing. I for one would love to see some of the big spenders booted out of both parties. Moves that define more clearly what a given party stands for might also be useful for helping voters make up their minds. However, when a general consensus on most major political issues isn't enough to keep party favor, but only adhering to the strictest letter of party law will suffice to keep the flying monkeys from tearing out your stuffing, there's something just not right in Oz. Okay, there's a lot not right in Oz, but sticking with the question of the right of politicians to take a principled stand, while still sharing mostly common ground with their political party, there's something decidedly unhealthy about devouring your fellows because they dare not to walk the narrowest party line, especially when not that long ago the party line was a fair bit wider.

I really admire Lieberman's insistence on taking that principled stand, despite its unpopularity with the movers and shakers, and the Democratic power brokers. Lieberman knew what the opposition wanted and refused to give it to them, despite knowing that it could cost him his Senate seat. Of course, I happen to agree with this particular stand. There's little that's as important right now as fighting terrorism. Lieberman knows that. I gotta tell ya; if I lived in Connecticut, even being the Conservatarian that I am, I would strongly consider voting for the man. If the state is going to give the seat to either a Democrat or an Independent Lieberman anyway, which by all accounts is the way it will go, I suspect I'd want to make my Conservatarian vote count for defending our country.

Update: The Lanny Davis article, referenced by Pinkerton in the quote above is worth a look, as well. It's rather revealing.