Memo to Lieberman: It’s the Sanctimony, Stupid

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Lost in all the discussion over to what degree Ned Lamont’s victory in the Connecticut Democratic primary does or does not indicate regarding

1) public opinion on the war
2) potential for a reprise of the Eugene McCarthy split in the Democratic Party
3) anti-incumbent fervor
4) Joementum

is perhaps the real reason Lieberman lost. He’s sanctimonious. And he’s opportunistic about his sanctimony.

Now I have no doubt that Lieberman is a religious man, who takes his faith seriously, and that his faith does inform his politics, making him more conservative than some in the DNC on some issues. But there’s a difference between piety and sanctimony. As the editorial page of the New Hampshire Concord Monitor put it:

To say that Lieberman lost merely because of his steadfast support for the war oversimplifies the case. Lieberman has a strong sense of morality that unfortunately can spill over into righteousness and sanctimony. That side came out when he harshly chastised President Clinton over his affair with an intern. It came out again in December when he issued this warning: “It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be commander-in-chief for three more critical years, and in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.”

Of late, Lieberman’s sanctimony has reared its ugly head in his statements that Lamont voters had handed a victory to terrorists, and his self-righteous persistence in staying in the race over the wishes of his constituents and his party. Lieberman may keep his political career alive by going further down the path of sanctimony. Indeed, pundits are already speculating that if he wins as an independent and keeps his committee seats he could find himself as a key Senate tiebreaker, forcing both parties to kiss his ring.

Such an outcome would, no doubt, reinforce Lieberman’s high opinion of himself. But I would argue that what Lieberman’s primary loss might really augur is voter rejection of politicians who lecture us from on high, who wrap themselves in the flag and twist scripture, who are patronizing in their “trust us” statements, who offer no solutions other than their continued “leadership.”

That would be a Joementum we could all get behind.

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