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.