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Whither Schlessinger?


I’d like to do something unusual and engage my Red State blog brethren in a serious conversation.  I know in the past we have devolved into pigtail dunking, mud pie throwing and other antics more pitched at kindgertarten level, but I have to say that when it came to backing Steve Laffey against Lincoln Chafee, they didn’t back down off their principles, they didn’t do what the party dictated and they stood up for what they believed in within the GOP. 

We did much the same thing in backing Ned Lamont, though as I’ve expressed before I think the battle we picked was wiser — had either Lamont or Lieberman won the primary, ostensibly a "Democrat" would have gotten the support of all of us going into the general and most probably won, so there was little chance of throwing control of the Senate to the Republicans.  Had Laffey beaten Chafee, he didn’t stand a chance against the Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.  But as I’ve said before, I respected their willingness to stand up for what they believe in and threaten to burn the place down if the party continued to take them — and their values — for granted. That kind of passion, even if I don’t agree with the underlying principles, is the only antidote to the kind of political opportunism, the slavishness to polling that seems to paralyze the beltway set from acting like statesmen.

So I only have one question — whither Alan Schlessinger?

Joe Lieberman is about six inches away from Lincoln Chafee.  He routinely brags about all the pork he’s finessed and doesn’t even have the good sense to be embarrassed by the term.  Alan Schlessinger makes all the right noises that made Laffey the darling of the movement conservatives.  From one of his recent ads:

Are you tired of listening to Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont arguing over who is the best Democrat or the most liberal? … Meet Alan Schlesinger, a proven Republican leader who opposes higher taxes and more wasteful spending. Unlike Joe Lieberman, Alan Schlesinger won’t cave in to the ‘Amnesty Now’ crowd for illegal immigrants who violate our borders. Alan Schlesinger will oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants and fight to keep our national borders secure.

When it comes to tax reform he’s a Club for Growth wet dream.  Are we supposed to believe their lack of voluble support because of Schlessinger’s gambling problem?  I mean come on, this is the party of Bill Bennett. There was a moment in the sun when Lieberman announced his plan to run as an independent when the right could’ve staked out the Republican vote in the state and not ceded it to Lieberman, made a stand for their principles he obviously does not respect.  Instead, the GOP refused to endorse Schlessinger, and  Karl Rove made it clear that he would help Lieberman.  

So now the GOP is backing this man, Joe Lieberman, for the Connecticut Senate seat:

The liberal group Americans for Democratic Action gave Lieberman’s 2003 voting record a “liberal quotient” of 70 (out of 100), putting him only slightly to the right of center in a caucus in which six members earned a 75 while Nebraska’s Ben Nelson clocked in at 45. Harry Reid, the Democrats’ new leader, had an identical score to Lieberman’s.

The American Conservative Union, meanwhile, gave Lieberman a zero for 2004 and 2003, offering him a lifetime 17. This puts him to the left of uncontroversial Democrats like Blanche Lincoln (21), Thomas Carper (18), Tim Johnson (20), and, again, Reid (21). Indeed, in 2002 and 2003, Lieberman scored slightly to the left of John Kerry and John Edwards.

Whatever the reasons the party is backing Lieberman, it has absolutely nothing to do with the values espoused by "movement conservatives."  Which, as evidenced in the Laffey/Chafee fight, ought to enrage them.  Instead they stay largely silent.  Is it because it’s a tough race?  That’s never stopped us — back in January Ned Lamont was behind in the polls by 50 points or something.  Is it because Karl Rove told them to suck this one up?  Yeah the establishment Democrats did the same thing to us, and we told them we’d pass, thank you very much.

Obviously I have an interest in seeing Schlessinger promoted as the GOP candidate, I won’t pretend I don’t — Lieberman is allowed to "have it both ways" all too often.  Before the primary all Joe’s literature berated Lamont for voting with Republicans 90% of the time, and now that Lieberman needs the Republican vote Lamont is a member of the looney left.  I think the values crowd on the right has allowed their territory to be hijacked and their message obscured by someone who is only appropriating it temporarily for political gain (starting on the evening of August 8 by my count) — how long until he throws off that mantle too?

I can tell my fellow bloggers on the right that although some are (unfathomably) embracing Lieberman now, he has an ugly tendency to repay loyalty with betrayal, and he’s quite good at sticking the knife right between your shoulder blades when it will hurt most.  We stand by progressive candidates on our Blue America page not because we think they’re all going to win, but because we want to reinforce our values by promoting candidates who aren’t afraid to express them.  We learned the value of doing that from the right. 

So I’ll ask again — is there a reason that you guys are letting Alan Schlessinger flounder? And what’s going to happen the next time an anti-pork, lower taxes candidate wants to take a stand against a Chafee or a Lieberman?  Will they look at this race and realize that if the party doesn’t find their values acceptable at the moment, you’re not going to have their back? 

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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