The BBC - not because it is biased, but because its political reporting lacks a sense of history - misses the point in the news that Senator Joe Lieberman has lost to an anti-war challenger, Ned Lamont, in the Connecticut primary:
Mr Lamont, founder of a cable television company and a political novice, capitalised on the war's unpopularity in Connecticut to leap over Mr Lieberman. Mr Lieberman - who was Al Gore's running mate in 2000 and who sought his party's nomination for the 2004 presidential campaign - has been labelled by some Democrats as being too close to Republicans and President George W Bush. But his defeat sends a message to politicians of all colours that Iraq is becoming a political liability....
As a poll cited by the BBC shows, the Iraq war is far more unpopular with Democrats than with Republicans. What is happening in American political debate is what periodically happens to parties of the liberal (in the American sense) wing of politics. Partisan liberals come to believe so strongly in their pacificist (not pacifist) principles that they lose a sense of political balance, and thereby lose their status as a party aspiring to represent mainstream concerns. As Martin Peretz noted this week in The Wall Street Journal:
We have been here before. Left-wing Democrats are once again fielding single-issue "peace candidates," and the one in Connecticut, like several in the 1970s, is a middle-aged patrician, seeking office de haut en bas, and almost entirely because he can. It's really quite remarkable how someone like Ned Lamont, from the stock of Morgan partner Thomas Lamont and that most high-born American Stalinist, Corliss Lamont, still sends a chill of "having arrived" up the spines of his suburban supporters simply by asking them to support him....
The Lamont ascendancy, if that is what it is, means nothing other than that the left is trying, and in places succeeding, to take back the Democratic Party. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters have stumped for Mr. Lamont. As I say, we have been here before. Ned Lamont is Karl Rove's dream come true. If he, and others of his stripe, carry the day, the Democratic party will lose the future, and deservedly.
It will lose as deservedly, indeed, as European social democrats (with the notable exception of the French socialists, who never succumbed to anti-militarist sentiment) did, and massively, in the 1980s for their adoption of a crude anti-Americanism and opposition to the deployment of Nato's intermediate-range nuclear forces. I wrote after the last US presidential election that:
The proper course for the Democrats would have been to nominate Joe Lieberman in order to neutralise the President’s advantage on security issues, and then campaign on domestic issues. The fact that Lieberman is even less palatable to his own party than his (and my) political hero Senator Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson was when running for the nomination in 1972 and 1976 shows the extent of the Democrats’ problems, and accordingly they deserve scant sympathy from liberals elsewhere.
Ned Lamont is, I'm sure, a democrat as well as a Democrat, but he appears nonetheless to be as politically empty-headed as his undistinguished forebears. Lieberman's defeat shows a party out of touch with its own traditions as well as with the electorate. I wish Joe Lieberman well, and hope he wins, if he chooses now to run as an independent.
UPDATE: Jacob Weisberg, in Slate magazine, stresses the significance of Lamont's victory and the damage it will do the Democrats:
This is a signal event that will have a huge and lasting negative impact on the Democratic Party. The result suggests that instead of capitalizing on the massive failures of the Bush administration, Democrats are poised to re-enact a version of the Vietnam-era drama that helped them lose five out six presidential elections between 1968 and the end of the Cold War.