Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The meaning of the Lieberman defeat

In the Connecticut Democratic primary Ned Lamont won a narrow victory over veteran Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman with a simple message: The war in Iraq is wrong and Senator Lieberman is wrong to continue supporting it.

Many commentators are saying that Lamont’s victory is due to the political bloggers who supported him. But why would that be? With the polls showing opposition to the War in Iraq running at over 70% and many people saying that the war is the most important issue determining how they will vote why would anyone credit Lamont’s victory to anything other than public opinion? Why would the presence of blogs be required for people to vote their consciences? One possible answer could be the almost universal support for incumbents, any incumbent, in the media, expert opinion and traditional sources of political power such as labor unions. Last Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” Cokie Roberts said, with a straight face, that a Lieberman defeat would be a “disaster” for the Democratic Party. How could it be a disaster to replace a candidate who has been an unrepentant cheerleader for a deeply unpopular war with one who agrees with over 70% of the public on that issue?

Commentators who give credit to bloggers when the traditional advantage of incumbency is overcome must believe that a large part of that advantage is the support of the traditional media, unions and party. If bloggers can diminish that advantage then that shows that people were supporting incumbents not because of some inner desire for the known and familiar but because the support for the incumbent was the overwhelming message they were hearing. How else could simply reading a few blogs cause them to vote differently than they otherwise would have?

Perhaps before we go off spreading democracy at the point of a gun we should work on our democracy here at home. If a few blogs with a different message than the corporate media can have such a big impact what would our society look like with truly free flow of information and opinion, rather than our current system where opinions backed by money and power get the most airtime?

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