Tea Party’s coming punishment: How Thad Cochran could be GOP’s Joe Lieberman

When his party's base turned on him, Joe Lieberman sought his revenge. Now Thad Cochran could lead a new revolution

Topics: Thad Cochran, Joe Lieberman, Democrats, Republicans, 2014 elections, GOP primary, Tea Party, ned lamont, Mississippi, Connecticut, Editor's Picks, U.S. Senate,

Tea Party's coming punishment: How Thad Cochran could be GOP's Joe LiebermanThad Cochran, Joe Lieberman (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Jessica Hill/Photo collage by Salon)

Looking over the reaction among the Tea Party right last week, it’s clear that this is a very painful time for activists who had hoped to send a message to the Republican establishment by unseating longtime Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran and replacing him with a conservative outsider. But the spectacle of a Republican incumbent on the run from a grass-roots insurgent retaining his office through the good graces of liberal African-Americans had to hurt more than anything. It’s one thing to lose a fight, it’s quite another to do so because your political enemies helped your own party defeat you.

There were probably plenty of liberals who felt a sense of déjà vu when they read all those angry tweets by conservative activists. After all, it was only eight years ago that they suffered a similar fate. Back in 2006, liberals from all over the country pooled resources and energy to back an upstart candidate to challenge one of their Democratic bêtes noirs, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. He had been an annoying apostate for many years, from lugubriously moralizing against President Clinton’s consensual indiscretions to going on television as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate and pandering to the GOP during the Florida recount. But it was his unyielding support for George W. Bush’s Iraq policies that finally drove Democratic activists to try to defeat him in a primary.

It caused much pearl clutching among the cognoscenti, who sensed that allowing the activist riffraff to have their way would be to introduce all forms of chaos into the establishment. Even the “liberal” Jonathan Chait sounded the warning in the Los Angeles Times:

In the end, though, I can’t quite root for Lieberman to lose his primary. What’s holding me back is that the anti-Lieberman campaign has come to stand for much more than Lieberman’s sins. It’s a test of strength for the new breed of left-wing activists who are flexing their muscles within the party. These are exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They think in simple slogans and refuse to tolerate any ideological dissent. Moreover, since their anti-Lieberman jihad is seen as stemming from his pro-war stance, the practical effect of toppling Lieberman would be to intimidate other hawkish Democrats and encourage more primary challengers against them.



(Chait has written with equal contempt for the Tea Party many times but nonetheless celebrated the right-wing insurgent victory over former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Apparently, even the Tea Party is a lesser threat to good order than those “fanatics” who supported Ned Lamont.)

The analogy between the two campaigns is imperfect simply because Lieberman was actually a much more disloyal backstabber than Cochran has ever been. His willingness to cozy up to the Republicans was legendary, while Cochran is just a standard-issue conservative Republican who gets what he needs for his state and otherwise doesn’t rock the boat. When challenger Ned Lamont won the primary outright and became the legitimate Democratic nominee for the Senate, Lieberman refused to take no for an answer and ran as an independent. He kept his seat. Seventy percent of Republicans voted for him in the end.

Other than showing that the force is strong with the political establishment of both parties, this is relevant because the result of this sort of ugly internecine battle is often a change of attitude by the winning candidate when he (and his staff) go back to Washington. Lieberman was scarred by his campaign and never forgave the left for challenging him. In his last term he made a fetish out of thwarting them at every turn, even going so far as to singlehandedly shoot down his own proposal to lower the Medicare age to 55 during the healthcare debate. It was seen as a gesture of goodwill to the left of the Democratic Party and he was having none of it.

What of Thad Cochran? Will he pull a Lieberman and use what will likely be his last term to pay back the Tea Partyers who challenged him? (He actually has good cause to be personally angry; their shenanigans breaking into his wife’s nursing home were utterly shameful.) Or will he do what most Republicans do in this situation and move as far to the right as he can get and cower there?

You never know. He’s an older gent and sometimes that focuses the mind in original ways. At his age, he might just want to do the right thing — and in this case that means representing the constituents who voted for him, including those Democrats who helped him beat back the Tea Party yesterday. A Southern GOP senator who actually cares about his Democratic African-American constituents could be as revolutionary as the Tea Party thinks it is.

Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...