Joe Lieberman Won’t Rule out Independent Run for Senate

ConnecticutBLOG reports that Joe Lieberman has refused to rule out an independent run for re-election this November if he is defeated in the primary.

Will I always be a member of the Democratic party? I hope there’s not a primary. I’m confident if there is one, I’ll win it, but I’m not gonna rule out any other option for now because I feel so strongly that I can do better for the State of Connecticut for the next six years in the United States Senate that I want to give all the voters a chance to make that decision on Election day in November. I want to do it as a Democrat. If I didn’t want to do it as a Democrat, I would choose to run in some other party, trust me. But I want to do it as a Democrat because I believe in the Democratic party, so really the choice is up to my fellow Democrats.

ctblogger is upset by this: “In other words, stop the primary challenge or I’ll jump ship and allow all the voters (including that 70+ of Republicans who LOVE me) to vote for me in November as an Independent. . . . Is this in the best interest of the party or the best interest of Joe Lieberman (why does the word hubris come to mind)?”

I fail to see the problem. We have an artificial two party system created as a vestige of a first-past-the-post, single member district electoral system. Candidates typically chose a party label for convenience and instiutional advantages. In many cases, Lieberman being one of the most prominent, the alignment between the party platform and the candidate is rather weak.

Lieberman is clearly the candidate among those now offering themselves for the Senate that the voters of Connecticut prefer. Ned Lamont, Lieberman’s primary challenger, would have virtually no chance of getting elected in a two-way race with a moderate Republican. Yet Lamont is very attractive to the hard core enthusiasts who make up the Democratic nominating electorate.

Why, if those partisans decide to snub Lieberman, does he owe them loyalty? If they chose Lamont after Lieberman’s long service as a member of the party–including being a strategic vice presidential candidate a mere six years ago, making Florida much closer than it otherwise would have been–why shouldn’t Lieberman drop the “D” from behind his name and run on his own good name?

I should note that there is precedent for this in Connecticut politics. Conservatives, led by National Review‘s “BuckPAC,” backed Lieberman for the Senate over nominal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988. Weicker subsequently dropped the “Republican” label and ran, successfully, for governor as an independent.

Party enthusiasts refer to men like Weicker and Lieberman as Republican/Democrat in Name Only (RINO/DINO). So, what’s wrong with dropping the name?

Update: Matt Stoler raises some good points:

Because of CT election law, it will be very hard for Lieberman to compete in the primary and get on the ballot as an independent. The likeliest path forward for him is to test his strength at the convention, and based on that decide whether to run as a D or an I. From his perspective, he probably has a better chance in the general against Lamont than he does in the primary, so dropping out and running as an independent might be the most rational move, though it would be costly. So watch the convention carefully.

If Lieberman drops out of the primary to run as an independent, it’s going to be very strange for a lot of stakeholders. First of all, the DSCC and Senate Democrats will be thrust into some very awkward positions. Does Lieberman keep his committee assignments? Does the DSCC come in on Ned Lamont’s behalf? These are questions they should be considering.

Dan Riehl parses Lieberman’s words and notes the phrase “I would choose to run in some other party.”

Certainly, running as a Republican would solve most of Lieberman’s problems, especially the antipathy of his party which spawns from being on the “wrong” side on the war and the structural issues Stoller alludes to. Still, the GOP isn’t exactly riding high in Connecticut at the moment, either. One suspects Liberman would be better off with an “I” or some minor party label next to his name and then caucusing with the majority party. Or, ideally for him, being in the Jim Jeffords position of getting to decide which party runs the Senate.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. FredW says:

    Its kind a kind of “have your cake and eat it too” thing that does bother people (of both parties).

    If Leiberman dropped his affilation today and ran as a independent (or Republican or started a new party) I’d have no problem. Or if we changed the system and got rid of partisan primaries (everybody ran in a open primary with no party labels and the two top vote getters ran in the general election) then the point would be moot.

    It also bothers me when candidates run for re-election and another office (as Lieberman did 6 years ago)

    Its a “me, me, me” kind of thing that leave a bad taste in my mouth.

    And didn’t Weicker run as an independent from the beginning, not changing in mid campaign?

  2. Except for the war on terrorism and not thinking Bush is the embodiment of all things evil, Lieberman is point on point in alignment with the democratic party. But because he acknowledges that the terrorists really do want to kill Americans, that we should stop the terrorists before they kill Americans and that Bush deserves some credit for trying to do that, he becomes anathema to the left wing of the democrats.

    But of course it is the far right, theocratic, republicans that want to stifle debate in this country.

  3. Brian says:

    Lieberman for the Democrats is very similar to John McCain for the Republicans (at least the McCain of 6 months ago). There are plenty of elected Democrats to the right of Lieberman. But the issue isn’t that he occasionally disagrees. It’s that he is so darn willing to trash his party for his own benefit. If any television debate program ever has a Democrat on trashing other Democrats, you know it will be Lieberman, just as McCain is the go-to Republican.

  4. Joe Lieberman is to the Democratic Party as Abdul Rahman is to _____________________.

  5. Barry says:

    People have said that the deadline has already passed for him to file as a candidate in another party.