Thursday, August 17, 2006

Because sometimes you feel like a nut

I'm not going to belabor the issue beyond one more posting, so I'll summarize what I think here and move on to other things. My previous postings on "nutroots" are here and here.

What made Lieberman's primary defeat possible? Anger over the Iraq war, Lieberman's ineffectual and clumsy self-defense, and low primary voter turnout (around 15%, about average for an off-year primary). Who is Ned Lamont? A classic "trust-fund baby" -- a patrician airhead, really, not only lacking any political experience, but any political knowledge.

Then there's the unbelievable debacle of our unconstitutional campaign finance laws. Because candidates can't raise enough money from other people, more and more of them in the future will be men who've inherited (Lamont), married (Kerry), or made (Perot) their own personal money. The days of outside challengers (Gene McCarthy in 1968, Reagan in 1976) raising enough money on their own to run history-changing races are over, thanks to the idiocy of campaign finance "reform." Instead, our politics is paralyzed, strangled by an unholy alliance of incumbents, the media, and the Pew Charitable Trust. Under the last three decades worth of campaign finance restrictions, raising enough money to run for national office has become like filling a bathtub with a thimble. Thus have our politicians been reduced to thimble-fillers.

Lieberman's real hope was higher voter turnout, since higher turnout tends to marginalize fringe candidates and their supporters. The left-liberal "netroots" and MoveOn voters are well under ten percent of voters and could hope to affect the outcome only with low turnout. (Perhaps they're more numerous in the liberal Northeast, although the primary results suggest otherwise.) As I alluded to in an earlier posting -- and it's been explained elsewhere in much greater detail then I need to here -- "nutroots" is a strange movement of the information-age declass├ęs, poorly educated, but with outsized pretensions to deep knowledge -- classic material for conspiracist movements, actually. Ignoring the trust-fund babies, the movement mainly consists of on-the-cusp-of-middle-age white folks still living with parents in the inflated-cost Northeast and SF Bay areas, often without steady employment. (In case you're worried, Binah does not fit this profile :)

The negatives here are not immediately apparent, but they will be in the coming months before the general elections in November. As the shock of Lieberman's defeat wears off, the airheadedness of Ned Lamont and the cultish parochialism of "nutroots" will come to the fore in the media as potent turn-offs. Whatever their biases, the media will expose these facts willy-nilly, even in the process of trumpeting "nutroots" as "radical," ending the Lamont bubble.

Also troubling must be the Democratic party, abandoning a vulnerable candidate, appearing as both turncoat and not even good at it (ineffectually disloyal, you might say). It will re-enforce the correct perception that the Democratic leadership is too weak and incompetent to exert coherent discipline over the party and support Democratic politicians. That has to negatively effect how marginally Democratic politicians will behave in the future. They can always become independents or Republicans, after all. The Republicans have famously turned militant partisan loyalty into a signature principle and are much less likely to abandon their own marginal politicians.

Lieberman will run as an independent and already has a real and growing lead over Lamont. If the Republicans decide not to run a candidate for the Connecticut Senate seat, Lieberman will almost certainly win. (He'll probably win regardless.) All of these factors -- the airhead factor, the nuttiness factor, and Lieberman's likely win as an independent -- will add up to another humiliation for the Democrats, who will also be deprived of another Senate seat. The key point here is that "nutroots" is not strong enough to defeat Republicans, only strong enough to pick off vulnerable Democrats in primaries. Only in a primary, with low turnout, can a small group have such a great effect. And if they can't pull off a decisive win in November in the liberal Northeast, they certainly cannot do it elsewhere.

"nutroots" is an attempt by a fringe group to impose an enraged "punish-and-purify" regime on the Democrats. How any of this is supposed to help them is a mystery to me -- maybe someone smarter can explain. This episode is shaping up to be a Democratic disaster and perhaps the start of their post-Bush free fall. Karl Rove couldn't have planned it better. The "nutroots"-Deaniac-MoveOn attempt to take over the party will likely only end in 2010, after a few more electoral debacles and after Dean is sacked as party chairman.

POSTSCRIPT: While the Northeast-based and heavily liberal conventional media is obsessed with Lieberman's defeat, arguably more important primary results elsewhere in the country were largely ignored. The execrable Cynthia McKinney was finally knocked out in the Georgia primaries by Hank Johnson, a new African-American politician who is worlds apart from her politically -- not a conspiracist and with no record of assaulting Capitol police officers.

A number of conservative Republicans won primaries running on anti-spending themes and expressing frustration with Bush's signal failures in the "war on terror" -- the failure to do anything about the main engines of Islamic jihadism, Saudi Arabia and Iran. If that doesn't have Karl Rove scared, he needs to check his morning coffee. Since the Republican party is the majority party and the Bush-populist chokehold on it is weakening, these events are probably more important than what happened in Connecticut.

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