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Lieberman Race Pits Moderation vs. Hatred-Politics

This is no exaggeration: The soul of the Democratic Party — and possibly the future of civility in American politics — is on the line in the Aug. 8 Senate primary in Connecticut.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), one of the last “liberal hawks” in the Democratic Party and a leader in efforts to find bipartisan solutions to America’s problems, is being targeted for defeat by an emergent new left that’s using savage, Internet-based attacks to push moderation out of politics.

If former Greenwich Selectman Ned Lamont beats Lieberman in the Democratic primary, it will represent a signal victory for the MoveOn.org-Michael Moore-DailyKos left wing of the Democratic Party and for vicious name-calling as a political tactic.

The Democratic Party already is handicapped by the fact that its liberal base amounts to just 20 percent of the electorate, while the Republicans’ conservative base is 33 percent, according to decades of polling. Both parties must appeal to the remaining 47 percent who describe themselves as “moderate” — which Democrats can’t do if the left triumphs.

But the left is ascendant. MoveOn’s preferred 2000 presidential candidate, Howard Dean, is now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the party’s leaders in Congress, Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), give every evidence of being influenced by the left-leaning blogosphere’s obsessive hatred of President Bush.

Reid and Pelosi press conferences are dominated by Bush-bashing and virtually empty of positive proposals. Even so, mainstream Democrats are under constant Web log pressure to “take on” Bush and routinely get attacked for being too accommodating.

Lieberman is a target primarily because he supports the Iraq war, but also because he rejects Bush-hatred and often cooperates with Republicans, even though he votes with his party 80 percent of the time.

When fellow Senate Democrats Joseph Biden (Del.), Ken Salazar (Colo.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) endorsed Lieberman, the liberal blog Democrats.com featured this warning:

“If they read progressive blogs at all — and by now one would assume they do — [these Senators] certainly know that the Democratic ‘base’ hates Lieberman and will be furious at his defenders.”

The blogger, Bob Fertik, asked, “So why are these Senators kissing Lieberman’s ass/ring?” He speculated that one reason was that Lieberman could help them raise money, “in particular conservative Jewish money” and noted that “ideologically, Lieberman practically owns the ‘Democratic sellout’ brand,” which he warned Biden and Salazar to avoid.

Even before the current Middle East conflict, Lieberman was subjected to anti-Semitic attacks on liberal blogs DailyKos and Huffington Post. One commentary declared, “Ned Lamont needs to beat Lieberman to a pulp in the debate and define what it means to be an American who is NOT beholden to the Israeli lobby.”

Such comments — and there are worse — aren’t those of site operators Markos Moulitsas Zúniga or Arianna Huffington, but they also are not edited out as extreme or tasteless.

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