Lieberman wrote in a political autobiography of why he stopped sounding like a liberal when he ran for office in the late ’80s: he’d lost a Congressional race by being painted as one at the dawn of the Reagan era. He’d never let that happen again.
He may have launched his career by taking on machine Democrats. But he quickly made his peace with them, and the Teamsters who helped pull their votes, as he ascended to the position of Connecticut attorney general, then U.S. senator.
When he began making alliances with the Republican right in Washington, he was cultivating powerful friends among a network of politicians and operatives who came to dominate the federal government and the national discourse. He became a star.
When he ran as Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore’s number-two in 2000, he suddenly backtracked on those principles: He no longer called affirmative action “un-American.” He embraced civil rights again and warned against dangerous Republicans.
When he ran on his own for president in 2004, he positioned himself as a Scoop Jackson Democrat, hoping to capture the votes of conservative Democrats. But he was still seeking the votes of partisans. So he ditched the bipartisan, bridge-building talk.
And you know, I do get it in a pragmatic sense. The only way for a Democrat to get any face time during the first seven years of the Bush presidency was to diss his own party and praise the president, so that other TV commetators who felt guilty for falling for Bush’s weasel show would be able to point to “even the liberal senator X” in order to justify how icky their skin felt after he slimed all over it. I do get that if you’ve got a message, and it’s mostly “aren’t I awesome?” then the only way to get that out there was to append “and other Democrats suck” on to the end of it.
But it’s not 2002 anymore. Nor 2004 nor 2006. It’s time to stop treating these people like it was ever okay for them to sell out their principles just to be able to make love to the microphones. Joe’s not a proud Democrat. He’s not, in fact, a proud anything, not anything at all.