Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Movin' Out

A few things. First off, an amusing headline from

MTV cartoon draws fire as rasict
At least, that was the headline as it read around 8:50. Apparentlee, teh frntpage neads better copi ediiting.

Which leads me to topic 2: I was interviewed by CNN today, and a brief clip of the interview appeared on Paula Zahn Now tonight. The interview lasted 10-15 minutes, but they only showed about an 8-second clip of it. The exact words shown on screen were:

I think that when it comes down to it, the atmosphere that has been created in the blogosphere is one that is just as poisonous as the atmosphere of DC consultants, where they are spinning everything in favor of their candidate.
The obligatory megacut left out much of the context of that statement. Twice, the interviewer asked me a leading question to the effect of "So, you think that the bloggers have done a disservice to the Democratic Party?" I never took the bait, so they just played one of my more direct criticisms of the blogosphere. I think the blogosphere has the potential to revolutionize politics for the better, and we have already seen the seeds of that this year. But we've also seen some pretty rotten seeds get planted alongside them.

I think the intentions of the blogosphere are good, but the tactics of some of its members are questionable. The blogosphere's elite claims to be part of a people-powered movement seeking to introduce a new kind of politics into the American political system. But their tactics of "highlight if it helps, ignore if it doesn't, and spin everything" is eerily similar to that of DC consultants.

A root cause of this is the fact that the blogosphere to date has been pretty strictly divided based on ideology. There are the liberal blogs and the conservative blogs. There is some variation of opinion within each, but neither of the two spheres interact with each other, except to snipe and insult the other across the internet.

It's kind of like a group of 6-year old boys building a fort where only boys are allowed, then crawling inside their fort just to talk about how stupid the girls are, and to occassionally throw a water balloon at a passing girl (or at a boy who dares to hang out with girls). Since they only really talk with other "real" boys while they're in the fort, they become convinced that most boys agree with them, and deride any boy who doesn't as a sissy.

Seriously, that's about the maturity level of the blogosphere at the moment. Many of them show signs of maturity, but the group as a whole needs to grow up a lot more before it can reach it's full potential.

That's the goal of the blog that will be launched soon by Sundog and myself - to provide a blog where people of differing opinions discuss real issues in a thoughtful fashion, and talk with other instead of at each other.

The name of the final site is still TBD (we have several URLs reserved, but need to pick which one to use). Until then, here's the temporary URL while the new site is being chosen and designed:

Sundog and I will be posting our thoughts there over the next week or two while the new site is being completed. If you are interested in being a contributor to the new blog, send me an email with a brief (500 words or less) writing sample and a summary of your political views. And yes, the name of the temp blog is a nod to the recently-formed "GOP Progress" website designed to get Republicans who don't want to toe the line demanded by the more hardline elements of the conservative blogosphere.

The first posts on the new blog will be up shortly. Hope to see you all there.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Too close to call

Lamont leads 53-47 with 45% of the vote counted. I'll make a call on the primary once it becomes clear whether Lamont's lead is widening or narrowing after 50% of votes are counted.

If you held an anvil over my head and told me to guess now, I'd say Lamont by 8.

UPDATE (9:41 PM): It's now 52-48 with 55% counted. I'll wait for one more round of votes to get reported before posting my "final" projection.

UPDATE (9:49 PM): It's now 51.6-48.4 with 64% counted. I'm going to hold my tongue on further predictions. But FYI - the Courant website seems to be furthest ahead of the curve on posting results.

UPDATE (9:56 PM): Holding at 51.6-48.4 Lamont with 72% now counted. I'm going to predict a 52-48 victory for Lamont, although that might narrow after the counting of absentee ballots.

UPDATE (11:06 PM): With more than 95% in, Lamont is leading by a margin of 10k votes (51.9-48.1%). Lieberman conceded defeat in the primary, but vowed to continue as an independent candidate through November.

Remember that result I said I couldn't stomach? This was it. Lieberman lost, but by a close enough margin that he thinks he could and should have won. I certainly think Lieberman should drop out now, but I can't imagine that he will after such a close result.

We'll know what the lay of the land is for November once we see the first post-primary poll. I think Lamont will get a 10 point bounce from the last Q-poll, making the first post-primary poll look something like: Lieberman 43%, Lamont 36%, Schlesinger 11%, and 10% undecided.

And that's my last commentary on the CT-Sen race. Check back here tomorrow for an announcement on the launching of the new Sundog/Cacambo blog (Cacambo will be my new alias; site name TBA).

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Signing off

When I started this blog almost exactly one month ago, my primary purpose was simple: Refute and rebut some of the distortions and myths that were being spread about Lieberman's record in the progressive blogosphere. Anyone reading my posts can hopefully see that that has been the thrust of my posts. I have almost never addressed Ned Lamont's candidacy, much less laid out a case as to why Lieberman would be better than Lamont.

The underlying motivations for my chosen blogging path may help explain the reasons why. First, my primary reason for starting this blog was practical, not ideological. The readers of this blog may be surprised to know that the only candidate I have ever worked or even volunteered for was Howard Dean back in 2003. I chose to start this blog not because I strongly agree with Lieberman on the issues, but rather because I believe that this race is a distraction from Democratic efforts to retake seats from real GOP control, and that the sooner it ends, the better off the Democratic party and the progressive movement will be. Given Lieberman's intention to run as an independent candidate (which I strongly disagree with), a Lieberman victory in the Democratic primary was the only way to ensure that the distraction did not continue until November (until now - I'll get to that).

Second, I love a good debate and generally like to ensure that both sides of the story are told. Call it the urge to the influence of being in speech and debate club, or simply the mindset of a future attorney, but I rarely miss an opportunity to mix it up in a political debate. Generally, the most visible result of this mindset was me annoying my family members at Thanksgiving dinner. With the blog, I just played Devil's Advocate on a slightly bigger stage.

Finally, I hated the way in which the debate was being framed. I can't stand to see only part of the story get told, and loathed the way in which Lieberman's record was being distorted. I actually agree with most of the primary grievances being leveled against Lieberman. He does seem to have a Panglossian view of the situation in Iraq. It does seem as if he took the support of his constituents for granted. His desire to seek common ground and find bipartisanship seems woefully naive in the current D.C. environment (although I will add that I wish that were not the case). But the methods employed by some of Lamont's supporters in making their case against Lieberman were often marked by brazen intellectual dishonesty - taking quotes out of context, focusing on one vote while ignoring 200 others, and pounding on exceptions as if they were the rule.

Any objective assessment of Lieberman's voting record and political positions shows him to be a moderate progressive. But just being progressive is not, by itself, sufficient to justify re-election.

I was always planning to end this blog once primary day arrived (and have so told a few bloggers and the journalists who have asked me), regardless of who won the primary. A Lieberman victory would effectively ensure his re-election, and focusing on the race after a Lamont victory would only serve to take more attention away from races where Democrats could actually add to their potential majority. Either way, I would have no further reason for continuing the blog after the primary. Beyond that, I'm starting law school in a few weeks, and would have little time for blogging after that anyway.

I was originally going to say all that on primary night, but events of the past few days at first disillusioned me, and then made me decide to speed up the clock on my announcement. Anyone who has read the blog over the past two days could no doubt detect my growing despondency. The last straw hit today, and I decided to get this over with now.

It has become painfully clear to me that little good (and plenty bad) will come out of this race for Democrats, regardless of whether Lamont or Lieberman is the last man standing. That's why I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. Until today, the only way to make sure this intraparty slugfest ended August 8 was for Lieberman to win the primary. But today, Frank Lautenberg hinted that there might be an alternative - he said Joe Lieberman might forgo his independent bid if Ned Lamont wins the primary by a double-digit margin.

I don't much care anymore whether Lamont or Lieberman wins this Senate seat. The only outcome that gives me pause at this point is Lamont winning by a narrow enough margin that Lieberman decides stays in the race. The two ways to end this race on Tuesday are through a Lieberman victory or a Lamont rout. I could live with either option, but if you asked me now, I'd probably tell you that I would prefer the latter.

Lamont seems like a progressive and a good man. If he is a man of his word, and there is no indication that he is not, then he will be at least as progressive as Lieberman on most issues, and more progressive on the rest. Like Lieberman, he advocates progressive policies on the issues most important to me (education, the environment, stem cell research, and gay rights), and his personal wealth actually appeals to me, since it ensures that he won't need to rely on the money of others to get re-elected. I won't condemn him simply because I disagree with the tactics of some of his supporters, particularly since I could now say the same thing of Lieberman. No less importantly, recent polls seem to indicate that a double-digit victory for Lamont is more likely at this point than even a narrow Lieberman win, meaning that a Lamont rout now seems the most likely way to end this race quickly.

Thus ends LieberDem the blogger. I have not yet decided what to do with LieberDem the blog, but I will mull it over between now and Wednesday. I would not necessarily be averse to turning it over to a thoughtful Lieberman supporter who wishes to make further arguments in favor of him. I still believe that progressives can vote for Lieberman in good conscience, and I also believe that it's always best for both sides of the story to at least be told. I simply no longer wish to be the one telling it for Lieberman.

As for me, I plan to help start a blog in the next couple weeks which will focus on progressive causes and candidates elsewhere in the nation. The blogger known as Sundog, a Lamont supporter who often comments here and elsewhere, will be one of the founding contributors. I will likely only be an occasional contributor (providing analysis rather than advocacy) as I begin law school and plan ahead to my real career, which will have nothing to do with either politics or blogging.

If you believe I'm being disingenuous about some part (or all) of this, I can't say that I would blame you. The timing and suddenness of it obviously invites speculation, although I hardly think this blog is significant enough to warrant conspiracy theories. However - and I'm sorry if this sounds dismissive - at this point, I'm tired of stressing about other people's opinions on this race, and that is perhaps the biggest reason I'm not waiting for the primary to post this (also the reason I've disabled comments on this blog). If you truly are curious about the reasons behind the why and when of my decision, email me and I would be happy to explain.

Besides that, I wish both candidates and their respective camps best of luck with their campaigns, and I hope that we all can start fighting together again come Wednesday morning.

- Matt

Friday, August 04, 2006

If you need a good laugh...

...just look at this for awhile:

Definitely among the most clever satirical websites I've seen.

What a week...

So at a campaign stop for a CT-Sen candidate yesterday, a group of people supporting the rival candidates aggressively confronted the candidate, loudly asking him leading questions in the presence of the cameras and the other voters at the venue.

Sound familiar? Well, it should. Except this time, Ned Lamont was on the receiving end of the verbal barrage rather than Joe Lieberman.

There are a couple of universal (i.e. applying equally to both sides) observations to be made about this. First off, the First Amendment obviously gives supporters on both sides the right to verbally confront the rival candidate while he's campaigning. Unless they cross the line into harrassment or physical assault, it's legal and - in some ways - healthy for democracy.

But at the same time, it's also pretty damned silly, and is certainly an unwarranted distraction. The purpose of such confrontations is to embarrass the rival candidate or keep him from being able to speak his mind, and is most definitely not to ask the candidate insightful questions on the important issues. It's a grab for attention and an attempt to disrupt.

But the thing that struck me most about all this was the response of the anti-Lieberman camp to this. When Lamont supporters verbally confronted Lieberman, it was called a healthy display of the voters' anger. When the Lieberman campaign did it, they called it "thuggery," "Rovian," and accused the Lieberman supporters of trying to incite violence. They say Lieberman ran away and attempted to hide from the voters, while Lamont "escaped" the "hooligans."

They say one reporter caught an elbow and got a bloody nose, but does anyone here really think that the mainstream media wouldn't pick up on the story if Lieberman supporters got physically violent at a campaign event? Reporters were obviously at the event; if the Lieberman supporters had gotten physically violent, you can bet your life that they would all be rushing to produce a story on it - or at the very least, the reporter who got a bloody nose would make sure a story was printed on it.

I've checked Yahoo News, Google News, the National Journal's Hotline Blog (which picks up on everything), and no one is talking about this encounter outside of the anti-Lieberman blogs. There was one amusing article on the encounter in a small neighborhood paper called the Record-Journal which carried an amusingly tabloid-esque headline and was decidedly sympathetic to Lamont, but even that did not seem to mention anything about the Lieberman supporters engaging in physical violence. The progressive blogosphere's echo chamber is the only place where this can still be heard, and the story appears to have fizzled out even there. I suspect an objective account of what happened will never be printed.

All that being said, I repeat that the use of these "disrupt and harass" tactics by both sides is, shall we say, unproductive. I'm sick of this whole campaign at this point. There's obviously no hope that there will be a substantive discussion of the issues between now and Tuesday. The only two things we've learned from the past few days are that the Lamont camp can dish it out a lot better than they can take it, and that BOTH camps are thin-skinned. This campaign has devolved into fratricide, and regardless of the outcome, it will be a blessing to the Democratic party when it ends.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thursday Round-Up

Say what you will, but the nastiness of the last few days made me somewhat disillusioned with the entire CT Senate race. And since I still have more furniture to put together (I have a love/hate relationship with IKEA), I'll make this quick:

Excellent article on the blogosphere, partisanship, and ideology over at The American Prospect:

The netroots could be right that full-throated liberalism is compatible with Democratic electoral success. There may be no reason to worry that Feingold blew away the competition in the latest Daily Kos presidential straw poll. But netroots members should care about whether they are right or not, and make the case that they are, rather than demonize moderate elements of the party that are very bit as dedicated to building a Democratic majority as they are. If netroots activists’ assumptions about electoral viability are wrong, then despite their intentions, they are working against their stated goal. As members of the reality-based community, we all ought to be willing to step back and question our biases. Whether for the sake of the Democratic Party or for the sake of progressivism, we must.
If there's one point that I actually want to get across by Tuesday night, it is that we are all on the same side. I'll be making that point more often and more emphatically in the coming days. But at least until this race ends, I'd bet real money that few of the big-time bloggers are going to listen.

In other news, The Plank argues that Hamsher and Lamont aren't as independent as they would each like the world to believe, there's an amusingly insightful take on the race at the Thought Theater, Sundog examines Hamsher's almost/somewhat/'well, they started it' apology and also fires off a nice quip against Marshall Wittman, and a new Qunnipiac poll shows Lieberman trailing Lamont by double digits.

Anyone who doesn't think Lamont is the favorite in the primary at this point is kidding themselves, and I can't say I'm surprised given the way the Lieberman campaign has been run for the most part, and considering the prominence of the Iraq War in this race (check out the % of Lamont voters saying it's the main factor in their voting decision). I just hope there's no more friendly fire damage between now and Tuesday, but I know that's some very wishful thinking.

Kudos to Sundog and Peking Duck, who are (near as I can tell) the only blogs so far to denounce both the flyer and the blackface. I'll update and add to that list if people see more.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I just gotta ask the question...

How stupid do both the Lieberman and Lamont camps think black voters are?

First, Lieberman's campaign released a ridiculous flyer implying that Lamont's country club membership makes him racist (sorry Dan, but I don't buy it). Lamont volunteered in urban schools which serve low-income minority students, so clearly the man was socially and racially conscious before this race began.

And then Jane Hamsher, not technically on the Lamont payroll but certainly one of Lamont's cheerleaders-in-chief, manages to see the flyer (and raise it through the roof) by posting a picture of Lieberman with blackface. It was deleted from the Huffington Post website where it was originally posted, leaving the right wingnut blogs to carry it. The progressive blogosphere's silence on it is deafening. There's something very, very wrong when it's the progressives who are silent about someone posting a JPG of the most racist thing someone could do with Photoshop, giving conservatives an opening to posture about tolerance.

It all really begs the question - do the Lieberman and Lamont camps really think that the IQ of black voters is so low that they will actually respond positively to these things? What the hell are they thinking?

Someone needs to realize that the attacks from both camps are only going to hurt the Democratic party and its image to voters - not just in CT, but across the country. Someone in this race needs to come clean and call a timeout on all this. But something tells me that neither side will.

Update: Fleshed out the first full paragraph and changed "campaigns" in the first sentence to "camps" to further clarify that the Hamsher blackface picture was not authorized by the Lamont campaign. To his great credit, I hear Lamont's campaign manager asked Hamsher to take down the photo.

I finally have the a/c working in my new apartment, so I'm moving in tonight. Unfortunately, it doesn't have internet access yet, and won't until I can find a month-to-month service that won't bankrupt me (shoot me an email if you know of one), so I won't be doing evening updates for a couple days. Hope everyone has a pleasant evening, and if you're on the East Coast - stay cool.

104 degrees...

That's what The Weather Channel says will be the high in Philly today. I'm seriously hesitant to step outside for lunch.

If you haven't yet, go to:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New Donkey post, Iraq, and education

Good post today over at the New Donkey blog. It combines some reasoned criticisms of Lieberman with refutations of the hyperbolic statements that are so frequently made about him. The post is lengthy, but well worth the read. Here are the last couple paragraphs, which I particularly liked:
I frankly do not agree with either side of the Lieberman-Lamont fight in their contention that this is some sort of Democratic Gotterdammarung that will perpetually resolve every intraparty dispute. Much as I stubbornly admire Joe Lieberman, it's clear he is a clumsy politician who lives in the pre-Karl-Rove atmosphere that permitted genuine bipartisanship. The Clinton New Democrat tradition in the party would survive his defeat.

But I also think the savaging of Lieberman as "vicious and reactionary" is a terrible sign of the defection of many progressives from reality-based politics. And to respond specifically to Matt Stoller's questions, the idea that Joe is the epitome of the "Democratic establishment" is a krazy-kat reflection of the false belief that Clintonism completely conquered Washington, and is the source of every D.C. establishment vice. If you took a straw poll of the consultants, the DNC types, and safe-seat House Members who surely represent an important part of the D.C. Democratic Establishment, I doubt you'd find anything like majority support for Joe Lieberman. He's only the embodiment of the Establishment when viewed through the looking glass of those who view all their friends as brave insurgents, and all their enemies as The Man.
I do, believe it or not, agree that Lieberman's view of the role of bipartisanship is outdated. I think it's one of two major topics, the other being the Iraq War, on which Lieberman's outlook is unjustifiably optimistic.

Since I've mentioned it, I'll use this opportunity to clarify my personal take on the Iraq War. First, I do believe Saddam Hussein needed to be removed from power, but I would not have voted for the resolution which gave Bush the authorization to use force in Iraq. Simply put, I think that any full-scale invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation should be done only with the active participation of the U.N. Security Council, or at least NATO (which was used in the Kosovo intervention). Coalitions of the willing are simply not a substitute for a true international force. Saddam Hussein was an absolutely brutal dictator whose regime needed to be changed, but it's not the job of the United States to decide when and how that regime change should have happened. In the words of my favorite author on foreign policy, Joseph Nye - right war, wrong time, wrong way.

In the years since the Iraq War began, Lieberman has refused to acknowledge the inevitable result of occupying a nation larger than California without a strong international mandate. His outlook on Iraq seems Panglossian in its outlook. In fact, I am often reminded of a lyric sung by Pangloss in Leonard Bernstein's operatic version of Candide when I think of Lieberman's persistent optimism on Iraq - "I've clung to my sanguine position/In the teeth of the ugliest facts." (Sorry...8 years of singing musical theater was bound to find its way into this blog sooner or later)

So there you have it. I disagree with Lieberman on Iraq and quite strongly. If you want to slam his position on it, you won't get any argument from me. What I will argue with is the notion that Iraq is all that matters, or even that it's more important than all the other vital issues facing this country.

If I had to zero in on one issue that is most important to me, it would definitely be education.
On this issue, Joe Lieberman has been a leader in fighting for greater educational opportunities for underprivileged students. It is often forgotten in the progressive blogosphere that the education system in this country is broken for tens of millions of students, and few leaders in either party have shown the political courage necessary to instigate real change.

Despite all the heat that No Child Left Behind gets from both ends of the political spectrum, NCLB represents the biggest push to improve the quality of education for underserved students since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. For that reason, I believe Lieberman was absolutely right to join Ted Kennedy in leading the Democrats' push for its passage. But George Bush went onto ensure that the act's title became a horrible irony. The fact that George Bush and Tom DeLay refused to provide the funding for NCLB is a despicable insult to the millions of students and teachers whose schools desperately need the money promised by NCLB, but who were shafted out of it by the GOP leadership.

I have spent the last two years studying education policy, particuarly its impact on low-income and minority students, and have personally seen failing inner city schools in Philadelphia. The students at these schools will never have a fair chance without the money promised by NCLB, and Lieberman has been among the most vocal proponents of fully funding NCLB. He has also repeatedly pushed for expanding access to and increasing the size of Pell Grants, which remains the most progressive financial aid program ever introduced in this country, and has fought against efforts to increase the interest rates on Stafford Loans. Even without bringing in his strong advocacy for the environment, stem cell research, and civil rights (the other issues which I feel most strongly about), Lieberman's strong progressive record on education nearly offsets my strong disagreement with him over Iraq.

I realize that I will never be able to convince someone that Lieberman is acceptable if their opposition to the Iraq War is so strong that they can see little else. But I think that such a single-minded focus on the war is a grave mistake when there are so many other problems in the country which will affect tens of millions of Americans for decades after the Iraq War ends.