Joe Lieberman might be Democrats' last hope to regain White House

August 08, 2006|By JEFFREY SCOTT SHAPIRO

Joe Lieberman is not a friend of the Bush administration. He may, however, remain the Democratic Party's last hope of recapturing the White House.

The senator from Connecticut is one of the last hawkish Democrats in a political party that has fallen under the spell of anti-war "cut-and-run" liberals who want America to withdraw from Iraq. As a result, he is falsely accused of being a blind supporter of the administration. But that shouldn't surprise many Democrats who support the war.

Ever since the liberation of Iraq, the party's leadership has taken a virulent anti-war position and isolated its members who support the war, even when they remain loyal to core Democratic values. For those Democrats who long for the days of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, when being liberal meant having enough heart to engage in national liberation, Mr. Lieberman is a candidate who can attract the moderate voters the party needs to win back Congress and the White House.

After all, advocating a military withdrawal from Iraq didn't prove to be effective when Americans voted in 2004 and it won't prove to be successful in 2008. Today, the party's anti-war leadership is widely viewed with fear and apprehension by the silent majority just as the "Christian Right" was perceived in the 1990s.

The Democratic National Committee still hasn't figured out that, although many Americans are disappointed in the way President Bush has fought the war, they are not in favor of giving up.

Americans have traditionally longed for moderation and stability in their leaders and they are not going to see it in anti-war liberals such as Ned Lamont, Mr. Lieberman's challenger. A victory for Mr. Lamont is just another sign to undecided voters that the Democratic Party does not welcome Americans who support the war, and that kind of exclusion will limit the party's voting base in 2008.

That's why prominent Democratic figures such as former President Bill Clinton and Sens. Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein and Connecticut's own Christopher Dodd have all shown their support for Mr. Lieberman. These experienced legislators know that no political party is capable of thriving when it falls prey to one, unilateral ideology.

This is especially true when the opposition is peppered with leadership that offers a healthy variety of viewpoints to attract a wider voting base. From war heroes such as Arizona Sen. John McCain to senators who have spoken out against the White House's handling of Iraq, such as Lincoln Chafee and Chuck Hagel, the Republican Party ironically possesses a more diverse range of leadership than the Democratic Party, which hasn't proven to be very "democratic" at all -- at least within its ranks.

If the Democratic Party continues to be seen as catering to the tunnel vision of the extreme left, it will lose mainstream American votes that swing states like Florida and Ohio.

Despite the accusations of his critics, Senator Lieberman has proven to be a staunch challenger of the Bush administration in the past. In his October 2003 address to the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Lieberman said of the administration: "There has been a pattern of broken promises and basic deceptions that diminish the presidency, degrade our strength, and disrespect the American people."

Mr. Lieberman opposed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and later spoke out against the president's Medicare prescription drug plan. He led the fight against the administration's attempts to open up the Alaskan refuge to oil drilling and fought furiously against the nominations of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Senator Lieberman is precisely the kind of reasoned voice that moderate Americans are looking for in the Democratic Party. When Connecticut Democrats vote today, their decision will send a message. If Mr. Lieberman is renominated, it will be a sign to American voters who support the war that they are welcome in the Democratic Party, and that message could earn the party millions of votes in the presidential election of 2008.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a recent graduate of the University of Florida School of Law, worked as an intern in the Clinton White House and for the Democratic National Committee Legal Team during the 2004 presidential elections. His e-mail is jeffreyshapiro1@aol.com.

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