One of the most effective tactics Bush supporters have long used is boastfully to depict any and every event as being politically beneficial for Republicans. Thus, even the extraordinary defeat this week of an 18-year incumbent best known for his pro-Bush views on foreign policy is somehow politically favorable for Republicans and spells doom for Democrats. And Democrats, particularly those who control the party, often internalize the premises behind this tactic, worrying themselves sick each time Karl Rove boasts, and national journalists echo, that the latest development means that Democrats are headed down the wrong path.
That trick may be losing its power. A new Zogby poll reveals that Democrats nationally are overwhelmingly pleased with Joe Lieberman's defeat: "It found that nearly four out of five Democrats (79 percent) were happy the former Democratic vice presidential nominee was knocked off by [Ned] Lamont ... Just 12 percent said they were not pleased with the results of the primary, which riveted political junkies across the nation. Another 10 percent of Democrats said they were not sure what to think."
And Democrats across the country overwhelmingly reject the warnings coming from the White House -- and disseminated by Lieberman supporters and certain national journalists -- that the Lieberman defeat endangers Democrats' political chances in November. Indeed, "70 percent said they think the Lamont victory makes the Democratic Party stronger heading into the important election season."
There has been much talk of late that Democratic opposition to the Iraq war can somehow lead to electoral disaster for Democrats even though the war is intensely unpopular among every group of Americans outside of the dwindling crowd of Bush loyalists. Those who issue such warnings point to the crushing defeat of the antiwar candidacy of George McGovern in 1972 in the face of the unpopular Vietnam War, but numerous commentators -- including bloggers Anonymous Liberal and Digby -- have been pointing out the multiple, fundamental differences that render that comparison nothing short of frivolous.
Digby emphasized that Vietnam was politically disastrous for Democrats because it divided them so intensely: "The Vietnam War split the Democrats because it was run by Democrats." By critical and obvious contrast, the Iraq war has been Bush's war from the beginning, and Democrats are as united as they can be in their opposition to it. From Zogby: "The Connecticut election highlights what Democrats across the country said they want to hear from their candidates -- a resolute opposition to the war in Iraq. More than three-quarters of Democrats (78 percent) said they want candidates who oppose the conflict."
Despite all the bluster and bravado from the White House, a united and impassioned Democratic Party, driven in part by opposition to a disastrous war tied inextricably to Republicans, is exactly what Rove and company fear most. And it is particularly noteworthy to see Democrats ignoring the conventional wisdom pouring out of the usual precincts in Washington that cautions them to hide or muddle their opposition to the war.