We see this morning the purest sign of the vibrancy of our democratic process: national Democrats, who with virtual unanimity supported Joe Lieberman, are now rushing to express unambiguous support for Ned Lamont. Here is the joint statement from Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer:
“The Democratic voters of Connecticut have spoken and chosen Ned Lamont as their nominee. Both we and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fully support Mr. Lamont’s candidacy. Congratulations to Ned on his victory and on a race well run.
“Joe Lieberman has been an effective Democratic senator for Connecticut and for America. But the perception was that he was too close to George Bush, and this election was, in many respects, a referendum on the president more than anything else. The results bode well for Democratic victories in November and our efforts to take the country in a new direction.”
As recent polls reflect, the one inescapable political truth in America is that Bush and his Republican congressional allies are deeply unpopular, and Americans want a balance — a serious counterweight — to the unrestrained and deeply corrupt one-party rule to which we have been subjected for the past five years. Up to this point, Democrats have failed, and failed profoundly, to provide any meaningful opposition to that unrestrained rule.
National Democrats clearly intend to use the president’s unpopularity and the resulting desire for a balance of power as the centerpiece of their strategy for the 2006 campaign. That is all well and good as far as it goes. But this newfound resolve to oppose the president must be reflected by Democrats’ actions between now and November, not merely their campaign advertisements and rhetoric. Republicans still control both houses of Congress and the White House and intend to exploit that control aggressively over the next several months in numerous ways.
There is pending legislation that could impose fundamental and arguably irreversible damage on our system of government. Most threatening in that regard is the truly pernicious bill introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter — with the collaboration of the White House — that would amend FISA in order to vest the president with virtually unlimited power to spy on Americans, legitimize the Bush administration’s radical theories of unlimited executive power, and all but immunize administration officials from the consequences of their systematic and ongoing lawbreaking over the last five years. Democrats have the ability to block enactment of this bill and similar ones — by a filibuster if necessary — and it is well past time for Democrats to show that they are willing to take a real stand against this president.
If the Lieberman defeat truly was, as Reid and Schumer described it this morning, “a referendum on the president more than anything else,” then it is also a message to Democrats that they must immediately shed their palpable fear of tenaciously fighting and blocking the president’s agenda in Washington. Vigorous opposition to Bush and his policies is what galvanized such an intense and energized campaign to defeat Lieberman. That is the energy Democrats must tap into and inspire in order to win in November.
Democrats will be able to do that only by demonstrating — for the first time during the Bush presidency — that they are willing to stand up to Bush and his congressional loyalists, even if it means defying the deadly risk-averse advice of their Beltway consultants and incurring the wrath of the pompous, out-of-touch national media pundits. The Democrats’ ability to defeat the Bush-led Republican machine in November requires the passion and energies of those who just brought down a three-term senator in Connecticut. Those are the voices to which national Democrats must listen if they are to put an end to the Bush stranglehold on our government.