Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I said I wouldn't blog on Lamont. BUT...

I knew as soon as I'd hit "publish" that I'd probably revisit the Lamont primary victory, sooner or later. I just didn't expect the right-wing noise machine to kick into as high a gear so soon. Don't they realize that mid-term elections are still about three months away? They may run out of faux outrage.

Anyway, here we have a reprint of an Economist editorial on Lamont. It starts out reasonably enough, but degenerates into the mostly badly-argued bullshit about 8 paragraphs in. Here's the 8th:

Lieberman lost because his opponent was rich, because his own campaign lacked sparkle and because, by promising in advance to run as an independent if Connecticut's Democrats rejected him, he seemed to put personal ambition above party loyalty.
Note that Lamont is being tarred as rich, but Lieberman's own wealth is being overlooked. At last count, US Senators are paid $165,200 a year. Lieberman's been a Senator since 1988, so that's about 18 years (give or take, depending on when he drew his first cheque), or a notch or two under $3 million. I'm sure there's been some salary increases over the years, and I can't be bothered to try to adjust for inflation. Suffice to say, Lieberman's earned more as a US Senator than most people will see in a lifetime of work. (If one earns an average of $60,000 a year for a working life from 20 until 65, one would earn $2.7 million. $60,000 a year is, however, extremely high in the US. About $40,000 is average, which would work out to less than $2 million.) In short, yes, Lamont's rich. But Lieberman is probably rich, too. Most people in control of the government are rich. I'm not sure why it's supposed to be a reason for Lamont's victory.

It's also noteworthy that there's nothing positive about Lamont's positions being cited here (such as, for example, that his views on the Iraq war align more closely with those of the majority of the American public). Instead, we have his money compared to Lieberman's poor campaign and Lieberman's own (at least perceived) arrogance. Which suggests that Lamont could've been a broomstick and people would've still voted for him over Lieberman -- terribly insulting towards Lieberman, but also a backhand at Lamont.

The remainder of the article becomes increasingly unhinged. I honestly can't follow much of what's being marshalled in the remainder of the piece. I think the point is something like:

  1. Leftists generally don't like wars.
  2. Leftists really didn't like the Iraq war.
  3. Anyone opposed to the Iraq war must be a die-hard leftist.
  4. Diehard leftists can't win elections.
(1) is drive-by smearing of the worst order. There's leftists of all stripes, from pacifists to militants, as with conservatives. (2) is probably true, but is misleading; (3) is simply false. Anyone sane thought this war was a particularly bad idea, whether leftist or not. (4) is possibly true in the current US political climate, but it's really hard to say. When more than 50% of the population stays home rather than voting in a presidential election, you have to wonder whether a radical candidate from the other side of the spectrum might mobilize some interest.

The ultimate conclusion seems to be that Lamont can't win a senatorial election because he's attracting support from left-leaning people, and this will require that he adopt increasingly more left-leaning positions. I'm not sure why it's supposed to be automatically bad to be on the political left (see previous point about voter turnout). I'm also not sure why leftists are supposed to only vote for radically leftist candidates -- rather than candidates who are more to the left than the alternatives. Leftists are as capable of voting strategically -- or, better term, pragmatically -- as anyone, and I suspect that the reasoning actually deployed will be that Lamont is better than Lieberman, even if he isn't exactly perfect. (Much the same as the reasoning that led to many leftists endorsing Howard Dean, whose record as Vermont's governor was hardly a paen to socialism. Dean's support for universal healthcare tends to overwhelm his support for balanced budgets and cutting taxes in many people's eyes.)

In short, what we see here is a truly bizarre set of attempted rationalizations of the Lieberman loss, in terms that always privilege the rightist political view over the leftist. Should I know not to expect better from The Economist? I had rather hoped that this sort of flagrant nonsense was largely confined to this side of the Atlantic.

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