Blue America: Ned Lamont. Hero.
[We are thrilled to welcome Ned Lamont to FDL for a discussion with us today. As with all Blue America chats, please keep the discussion polite and on topic. Any off-topic discussions should be moved to the prior thread. Thank you — and please join us in welcoming Ned! — CHS]
The first time I met Ned Lamont it was February 7, 2006… just one year ago! It feels like many more than that, somehow, and I'm sure it does for Ned, too. What that guy has been through…(and I'm not even talking about the $20 million).
We talked on the phone on the one year anniversary of our first meeting. Since then, he has led a veritable campaign to put forward a progressive agenda that is still being ignored Inside the Beltway. When we spoke Wednesday he was doing the same thing — albeit at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, instead of on the national stage. It seems like just yesterday that we watched him do the unthinkable: deny a longtime incumbent renomination to his U.S. Senate seat.
I asked him if he thought he even had a chance when we first met.
"I didn't care if it was a long shot," he told me. "It started as quixotic and after a while it was… possible. I always felt it was important to raise the issues we talked about."
Ned sounded as impassioned last week as he did last year in the middle of his high profile battle against what many of us saw — and still see — as Evil incarnate, Holy Joe Lieberman, and all that is wrong with a rotten and corrupt Inside-the-Beltway political class.
Ned in February 2006 was talking to me about an unjustifiable war and about the importance of creating good paying jobs for our people instead of shipping them overseas and about health care, privacy and getting people involved in self-government. He talked to be about many of the same issues on the phone and he's talking about them to students at Harvard this semester.
When Ned started out he was a concerned citizen who was pissed off about an intrusive government butting into everything from Terri Schiavo medical decisions to illegal eavesdropping on random Americans. His campaign may not have dislodged Lieberman from office — although it certainly dislodged him from respectability and probably from sanity — but it brought Ned's concerns and issues to the foreground.
Before Ned's campaign, the corporate media and the Beltway Insiders of both parties felt they could afford to ignore the Bush Regime's overstepping. People barely remember those days now.
"By the end of the campaign even Lieberman was talking about starting to bring troops home in by the end of the year! Since then we've had the bipartisan Baker Commission saying we need a surge in diplomacy, not in troop levels; and we've had a score of generals saying the same thing and the American people have spoken in polls and, as voters, at the November polls."
He seems glad that the arguments are out there — and even won — but frustrated that Bush and Cheney seem as impervious to the will of the Congress and to the will of the people as they have been to Reality itself.
In the end, a series of nods and winks from Bush, Cheney and Rove swung Lieberman's natural constituency — Republicans — behind him. He ran as someone above the political parties, as neither a Democrat nor a Republican. As corporate money poured into his campaign from traditionally Republican sources, Lieberman was able to define Ned to low information voters who never bother with primaries. Ned went from being the feisty independent outsider to being the defender of one of the big political parties while Lieberman painted himself as someone unconnected to…his essential self.
Ned's focus, however is towards the future.
His Harvard seminar, "Political Entrepreneurship and the Changing Political Landscape" is about how issues get framed by the old and new media. He has guests lecturers from every side of the issues including bloggers like Matt Stoller and David Sirota. He wouldn't take my bait and declare any interest in running against Rep. Chris Shays, a fake moderate who just yesterday endorsed right wing warmonger John McCain — although he didn't give me a Shermanesque statement either.
"I want to stay involved, but on a policy level," he said. "I'm talking about setting up a Connecticut policy institute to deal with statewide issues like healthcare reform. Candidates seem to be selling hope and soap."
He seems sure there are many ways for him to make contributions to our country without having to run for office.