Friday, September 18, 2009

Why Ned Lamont may be the Most Important Name in 2009 Politics

Yes, Ned Lamont may be the most important name in 2009 politics. Right now, it may be a more important name than Barack Obama. Let me explain.

The fight for health care reform comes closer than it has ever been before, and the Republican party continues to demonstrate that no compromise, not even tort reform, will draw a single Republican vote. At this point, the last thing standing between us and a strong health care bill is conservative or moderate Democrats. The progressive blogosphere has drawn a line in the sand. And I am reminded of 2006, and the Lieberman vs Lamont primary. I am reminder that when progressives draw a line in the sand on the most important issue to voters, they will follow through on holding politicians accountable.

It is because of that 2006 primary, that there is absolutely no logic for dropping the public option. It was the netrooots against the inertia of the Democratic status-quo. Since then, the netroots has become an even larger source of funds, a larger source of volunteers, a larger source of support, a larger source of press. And we have demonstrated our ability to launch you from the party, and critically injure your political career.

But Senator Lieberman won in the end, right? I mean, he did get reelected. Yes. But it was his last reelection. I doubt he will run again. He will not be winning any Democratic primary. And if he runs for the Democratic nomination, he will have to commit to not running as an independent should he lose. I remember working a mayoral primary in '07, every candidate had to commit to that to even be seriously considered. The reverberations of the '06 primary were felt on every ballot in CT. Senator Lieberman would be forced to make that promise. Then again, we all know how Lieberman is on campaign promises, especially about party affiliation. And he cannot run on the Connecticut for Lieberman party again. I mean that literally. He cannot run on that party line. I am not saying the politics forbids it, I am not saying that the Secretary of State might finally get bothered by Sen. Lieberman's repeated use of a fake party he has no intention of joining, I am saying that the party itself will forbid it. Senator Lieberman's campaign screwed up the process for taking control of the party, essentially no one actually registered for the party. John Orman noticed this and decided to register and submit party rules himself. Later, he made the party real. They endorsed President Obama in the 2008 election, pretty much for every reason they do not like Sen. Lieberman. The notion of Sen. Lieberman running against the Connecticut for Lieberman party, who will be eligible to cross endorse* the Democrat on every ballot in the state during the general election, is painfully hilarious for us, but a political dissaster for Sen. Lieberman.

That election was about one major issue, the war. Progressives, especially in the netroots, decided that there was going to be a line in the sand. We made the threats, against the advice of main stream democrats, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama. We took a stand, and while we ultimately lost the election, we landed a major, lasting injury.

And now, we are confronted again with a line in the sand. The progressive netroots have clearly staked out their position on the public option. The Republicans have demonstrated that no compromise on earth will draw a single vote. The Progressive Caucus in the house has made it clear that a bill without a public option will not pass. We are faced with two options, and two options only. 1) We can attempt to force just over a dozen blue dog Senators to support cloture, and an even smaller number to eventually support the bill. Or 2) We can attempt to sway over 50 progressive Representatives, not to mention a large number of progressive Senators, to support a bill without a public option. Which one sounds harder to you?

Add on the fact that the netroots has demonstrated its ability to throw carrots and sticks around. Carrots being large sources of funds, sticks being a difficult and damaging primary. I think we all understand what is at stake. We all know what a dark and depressing the political landscape will feel like if we lose this fight for the public option. None of us want that. Yet we learned from the fight for Medicare that sometimes you have to fight the good fight as many times as it takes, and never give up. Had we compromised on Medicare the way we are being asked to compromise now, there would be no public option for seniors today. It is easy to forget that, especially when you consider the many great reforms other than the public option in the bill. We deeply the fear the notion of taking a loss on this and having to go around taking out candidates that we agree with on many other issues. So when we make the threats to primary people, we do it with a horrible fear in our stomach. Yet we do it knowing full well that we intend to follow through. And we have demonstrated that we will. So, to all the blue dogs who are considering killing the public option, I have two words for you: Ned Lamont.

*Cross endorsement is when a party endorses another party's candidate for office, and the candidate appears on the ballot on both party lines. Fusion voting, or electoral fusion is the name for the process.
And fusion voting is the reason that David Sirota called the Working Families Party (WFP) the most powerful third party in the country, even though they only operate in a handfull of states. When a candidate appears on two party lines, the vote goes to the candidate all the same, but the votes for each party are tallied separately. If a third party, like the WFP, manages to get more than the margin of victory, it gives them a powerful tool to put pressure on that candidate on key issues to the party. In Connecticut, if a political party runs their own candidate for office and receives something like 1% of the vote, they will be eligible to cross endorse candidates on every ballot where that office appears. In other words, The Connecticut for Lieberman party received well over 1% of the vote for Senator Lieberman's seat last time it was up for election. The next time it is up for election, the Connecticut for Lieberman Party will have met the requirements to be eligible to cross endorse for any office on every ballot that the Senator's seat is on. Since it is a US Senate seat, it will be on every ballot in the state. Therefore, the Connecticut for Lieberman Party will actually be able to cross endorse in every race, on every ballot in the state. Fusion voting is only legal in a handfull of states, and only practiced on large scale in even fewer.
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