The more I read about the Lamont campaign in the press, the more I realize that Big Media and DC insiders do not yet get what is happening. Look at any newspaper or watch any TV report about the race,...
The more I read about the Lamont campaign in the press, the more I realize that Big Media and DC insiders do not yet get what is happening.
Look at any newspaper or watch any TV report about the race, and one would think voters in Connecticut were turning out for a ballot resolution on Iraq. They are not.
What is happening in Connecticut--really happening? Ned Lamont has come to embody the 3 Ps of Progressive politics: Principle, Protection, and Participation.
And win or lose the primary (he will win!)--Progressive politics has taken off. And there is no turning back.
Ned Lamont is not the first new Progressive candidate based on principles rather than issues. Paul Hackett was probably the first. But Lamont has been the most vivid, the most inspiring, and the most successful.
And DC--the Democratic establishment--still doesn't get it.
The voters of Connecticut get it. Bloggers get it. But DC and Big Media does not.
Take a look at this article from the Norwich Bulletin that endorses Lieberman over Lamont. To this journalist, 'principle' is just a style of campaigning, not the motivation or basis for the people of Connecticut to vote a Senator out of office:
Our view: Let's keep Lieberman
By now, all of us, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman included, have "gotten the message:" A significant number of Connecticut Democrats, led by Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, are fed up with the Iraq War and want our troops out now.
That's a principled and sincere stand, but it is not reason enough to jettison an 18-year veteran of the Senate, one who sits on the Armed Services Committee and who works well with both sides of the aisle.
The Norwich Bulletin supports U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
This article is not uncivil to Lamont. It is very polite, if not a bit simplistic. But notice that to this journalist, what is really happening between Ned Lamont, the voters of Connecticut and Progressive Democratic activists and citizens across this country--notice that this is completely lost. That is to say: this journalist does not understand, doesn't 'get it.'
What doesn't he or she get? Principles. They don't get that the race is about principles.
The argument in the paper is that the support for Lamont is about 'an issue' (e.g., Iraq), the message about 'the issue' has been received, and Joe Lieberman should remain in office on the basis of his positions on other 'issues' and his long time support of those 'issues' (e.g., his 18 years of experience).
This has been a 'principalled' race by Lamont, they argue. Principal is just a style of presenting 'issues.'
This is so far from what is happening in Connecticut and in the country that I am amazed--although not surprised--this article went to press.
About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people -- a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment.
The basis of our American form of government is not 'issues.' It is principles. And among them--among the most important is the honest and fair representation of the people. The core principle of government in America is that our leaders rule not for, not with, not instead of--but at the election of the people. Lincoln restated this some years later using the word 'people' over and over again, but Jefferson makes the point clearer.
The basis for holding office, in other words, is being true to the 'constellation' of principles on which our nation was founded--on which we fought wars, died by the thousands, and are willing to step up and defend forever.
For reasons that I cannot fully explain, at some point Joe Leiberman forgot this. He became, over the course of his 18 years in office, not a representative of the people and a defender of American principles--but sommething that I would call an 'expert' on various areas of governing. As a result of holding office for a long time, Lieberman began to think of himself as an expert whose decisions mattered more than the views of his of his constituents. And when he became that kind of elected official, he abandoned the constellation of principles that Jefferson named so long ago.
Now, when the President came to Joe Leiberman and asked him for support in a war against Iraq, Joe Lieberman had already abandoned those principles that he had been asked to uphold--or he abandoned them in the process of that request from the President. We know this because his state was saying, 'No war in Iraq,' but Joe Lieberman said in return, I hear what you are saying, but I believe based on what I know that war in Iraq is the right thing. He abandoned the principle of representing the people on which this country is based. And for that reason, he fell out of favor with Connecticut and Democrats in the country.
Ned Lamont, to his great credit, was able to see that Lieberman had abandoned the principles that serve as the basis of his having been elected, and so he ran a campaign to restore those principles: representation, honesty, listenign to your constituencies--the principles of our system of government above any personal believe in one's own expertise as a result of experience.
This is what the Lamont campaign is about. And Lamont is winning because the principles that Jefferson first spoke about over 200 years ago, and which Lieberman abandoned and Lamont embraced--these principles are not just written on some piece of paper kept behind glass in a stuffy archive in Washington, DC. They are in the heart and soul of every Democrat in this country--and a fair number of Republicans, too.
At the core of the debate in Connecticut is also the idea that a sitting Senator has shirked his responsibility to protect the American people. Simply put, thousands and thousands of Americans are now dying for a policy whose direction and goals are murky at best. And in response to this, the voice of the country has risen up to the Congress, the Senate and the White House.
In response to this voice, Senator Lieberman has consistenty said, no. I will not act to protect the American people, I will act to keep in place a policy based on a theory about pre-emptive military intervention and the construction of Democratic institutions--a theory that has been proven to fail in countless attempts throughout a long history that is much older than the United States of America.
In the face of this, Ned Lamont stood up and basically said to the people of Connecticut: I will protect you. I understand that there is no responsibility more important than the protection of the people.
When we listen to Lamont, we do not just hear a candidate who is against the war. We hear a candidate whose position is that the occupation of Iraq has eroded our dedication to protect the American people.
Consider this statement from Lamont's campaign web site:
I am running for the US Senate because we deserve a Senator who will stand up for Connecticut and stand up for our progressive democratic values. Rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars a day in Iraq, it is time for America to refocus on issues back home: fixing our health care system, upgrading our schools, and rebuilding our aging infrastructure. We will start winning in Iraq as the Iraqis take control of their own destiny, just as America has to start investing again in our own future.
This is a basic Progressive campaign that Lamont is getting out and it is about the failure of the government to protect the American people: failure to protect our health, failure to protect our children's education, failure to protect our roads and highways, faiure to protect our future.
The return to a Progressive narrative of Protection has been almost entirely lost on a media obsessed with reducing the story down to a simple headline about an 'anti-war candidate.' And that is too bad. Because a politician who speaks to voters about the value of protection, is a politician who inspires America. By contrast, the media seems only to be looking for the same, tired story about a Democratic party that 'opposes the war.'
Americans oppose the policy in Iraq--by a vast majority, now. The story in Connecticut is about the success of the Progressive idea of protection.
Here, too, Big Media has missed the story.
Pick up any newspaper and one would think that only bloggers are registered to vote in the Connecticut Democratic primary. I do not know what the ratio of bloggers to non-bloggers is in Connecticut, but I bet it is pretty low.
But this is the story: all that bloggers represent in Connecticut is the central place of participation in Ned Lamont's campaign.
In fact, if there is one thing that has struck me over and over again, it is how offended Joe Lieberman seems by the idea that voters actually want to participate in their government. His position seems to be: You elected me, I'll take it from here.
Ned Lamont, by contrast, has asked for help and input almost constantly from the start of his campaign. His message is: Please help me. This campaign is about returning your voice, your role in politics.
Why have Americans accepted that politics does not depend on the everyday participation of ordinary people? When did this become the case?
In the Lamont campaign, this idea that only 'important' or 'connected' people make a difference in politics has been completely tossed to the roadside. Ned Lamont has generated the spark of participation--and belief in the power of participation--amongst Americans far beyond the borders of the small state of Connecticut.
And that is what the race is about. Bloggers? Sure, there are bloggers. But the great story--the historic story--is all the non-bloggers who suddenly feel that they are making a difference and that the door has swung wide open for them to participate in the process again.
The 3 Ps
Is there a lesson to the Connecticut primary? There is: Progressive politics is here.
No more elections by fundraisers.
No more TV campaigns instead of talking to people.
No more talking down to constituents with triangulated rhetoric.
No more ignoring the principles on which American government was founded.
No more exposing your voters to danger by supporting reckless policies.
No more discouraging participation amongst every American.
Progressive politics has landed in Connecticut and it is coming soon to a town near you.
© 2006 Jeffrey Feldman