Joe Conason has a good column up at Salon on the race baiting being done by the Lieberman campaign. Conason points up the hypocrisy of Dan Gerstein characterizing Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as "divisive" considering Holy Joe’s history with Louis Farrakhan. But it should be noted that this isn’t some one-off comment by Gerstein, it’s part of a larger (and successful) strategy to scare off white voters from Lamont.
Shortly after African-American political leaders like Maxine Waters, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton came to Connecticut stumping for Lamont, polling began to show that they were making some white voters nervous. Predictable. But the response of Joe "great man" Lieberman was to throw oil on the fire.
Lieberman kicked off the race baiting himself:
"Ned Lamont can have Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton," Liebermen said. "I’m proud to have had Bill Clinton, Senator Dodd, Senator Inouye, Senator Salazar and a lot of other great Democrats."
And to make sure everybody heard, Lieberman operative Richard Goodstein was quoted as saying "Are you a Bill Clinton Democrat, or an Al Sharpton democrat?" Because, you know, they can’t be one and the same.
Then just in case the dog-whistle factor was a bit too subtle for the "low information voters" Joe’s race depends on, Ann Coulter was wheeled in to spell it out:
Congresswoman Maxine Waters had parachuted into Connecticut earlier in the week to campaign against [Sen. Joseph I.] Lieberman because he once expressed reservations about affirmative action, without which she would not have a job that didn’t involve wearing a paper hat. Waters also considers Joe "soft" on the issue of the CIA inventing crack cocaine and AIDS to kill all the black people in America.
Conason sums it up quite well:
The Lieberman campaign is trying to frighten white voters in Connecticut — and Democrats in Washington — by reminding them over and over again that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson support Lamont. This week, the senator’s aides told the New York Times that playing the two African-American preachers off against Lamont will enhance Lieberman’s appeal on an independent ballot line. "Primary night was the first time that many Connecticut voters saw Lamont on TV, and he’s surrounding himself with two of the more divisive and problematic figures in the Democratic Party," said Dan Gerstein, the Lieberman campaign’s communications director.
This nasty little strategy was evidently a successful tactic for the primary — exit polling showed that Lieberman’s Jackson/Sharpton rhetoric had an effect in more conservative white districts and did manage to peel off white voters from Lamont. Which is no doubt why Gerstein is keeping the race baiting alive in the New York Times. Now that Lieberman is openly running as a Republican we probably won’t get a lot more of that "b…b…but Joe marched in 64" mantra; that was pre-August 8 rhetoric.
But let’s remember, Joe Klein said this recently:
Rove has shown a positive genius for organizing campaigns around poisonous trivia. He will question the patriotism of Democrats (and, once again, be aided by those on the noisome left who believe that the U.S. is a malignant, imperialistic force in the world). He will deploy an ugly, stone-throwing distortion of Christian "values," especially against those Democrats who choose not to discriminate against homosexuals. And if things get really desperate, he will play the race card, as Republicans have ever since they sided against the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
I don’t know who is surprised that Lieberman would stoop this low to save his seat — certainly not me. But I think it’s time somebody besides bloggers started asking the question — if Joe is playing the "race card" for November, whose larger purpose is it serving?