It is complete hypocrisy for Joe Lieberman to claim that he is above “partisan politics.” Quite the opposite: Lieberman has been a consistent enabler for the partisan politics of George W. Bush, against the interests of the people. The price has been high for the country and for Connecticut’s working families: over 46 million uninsured, sky-high gas prices, a new surge in factories moving out of Connecticut for higher profits elsewhere, and the tragedy of 2,600 U.S. soldiers killed and thousands more maimed in the war on Iraq.
Lieberman’s tired song in his bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate on the “Connecticut for Lieberman” line is that Democratic nominee Ned Lamont is stuck in “partisan politics.” After bolting the Democratic Party, which rejected him in the primary, Lieberman dismissed other Democrats’ endorsement of Lamont as “partisan politics.” He shrugs off criticism of his voting record as “partisan politics.” And he discounts Lamont’s stunning primary victory as “partisan politics” by the “left fringe.”
In reality, Lieberman’s brand of partisanship has been devastating to Connecticut’s workers.
Those unions who endorsed Lamont early acted because the Lieberman/Bush policies hurt their members. Lieberman’s support for school vouchers, undermining funding for public education, hurt teachers, students and parents. It resulted in Lamont endorsements by the Connecticut AFT and the Connecticut Education Association. The International Association of Machinists endorsed Lamont because they are losing jobs as a result of NAFTA, CAFTA and every trade agreement stacked in favor of multinational corporations that Lieberman voted for.
Among the state’s largest unions, AFSCME, SEIU and the UAW endorsed Lamont after the primary because their members’ needs are not served by collaboration with the anti-worker Bush administration. While they supported and received assistance from Lieberman in previous years, their principled stand is focused on the politics of the present and future. They have placed class loyalty over personal loyalty. By delivering votes, they will be in a strong position to hold their candidate accountable, after Election Day, to vote for the needs of working people.
Overwhelming opposition to the Iraq war was the catalyst for Lieberman’s defeat after 18 years, but it was about much more. What has aroused the ire of Connecticut voters is Lieberman’s arrogant disregard of the opinions and needs of his own constituents.
A June 9 Talking Points Memo by commentator Joshua Marshall exposes Lieberman’s behind-the-scenes accommodation to the Bush agenda: “It was always this statement or that, that seemed to support Social Security but really left the door open to some compromise on phase out. … On and on and on. In the end it just seemed like … an ingrained disinclination to take a stand, even in a case when it really mattered.”
Despite widespread public opposition to the appointment of extremist Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, Lieberman, after voting no for the record, failed to support the filibuster that could have defeated the appointment. In response, the National Organization for Women became the first organization to endorse Lamont.
Lieberman was the only Democrat in New England to support the Cheney-Enron energy bill, and was one of very few Democrats to support the deployment of the so-called missile defense system that will stimulate the nuclear arms race.
The anger is about Lieberman’s priorities and partisanship that led him to disregard the decision of Democratic primary voters, create his own Connecticut for Lieberman line, and embrace the unofficial support of the Republican Party. National Republican strategists Dan Senor and Bill Kristol are funding TV ads for Lieberman by the “Vets for Freedom Action Fund.”
Despite the fact that Connecticut’s 2nd, 4th and 5th Congressional Districts are considered key to defeat Republican control of the U.S. House, Lieberman has refused to say who he is supporting in those races. The Democratic candidates (Joe Courtney, Diane Farrell, Chris Murphy), running neck-in-neck against Republican incumbents (Rob Simmons, Chris Shays, Nancy Johnson), are receiving strong support from Ned Lamont.
The need to challenge Lieberman in this election and take on the Bush agenda led activist leaders in Connecticut to call out for a candidate, and Ned Lamont stepped up to the plate. His winning message was that the $250 million a day being spent in Iraq needs to be brought home and invested in universal health care, public education and good jobs. His 10,000-vote primary victory resonated worldwide because it was a powerful expression of the great peace majority in our country.
There is no more effective way for the movement against the war on Iraq to gain leverage than to deliver the votes that will end Republican control of Congress by electing a Democratic majority in the House and Senate, and electing peace candidates like Ned Lamont. The nation and the world will see this, correctly, as a rejection of Bush’s war and the Republican campaign of fear. A victory in the House and the Senate will shake up politics as we know it.
The six weeks between now and Election Day provide a wonderful opportunity for the labor and peace movements to join hands, educate their members, families, neighbors and co-workers and build the kind of strong working relations that can move the people onto the offensive.
Joelle Fishman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chair of the Connecticut Communist Party and also chairs the CPUSA Political Action Commission.