Howard Dean's 2004 presidential primary run was largely fueled by internet-driven support orchestrated by campaign manager Joe Trippi. That campaign fell famously short in the echoes of Dean's Iowa caucus-night scream. But with Ned Lamont's win, the left wing blogosphere can this morning claim perhaps its first major victory . . . at least in a Democratic primary if not in a general election.
And that, in turn, raises the real question. Does the same left-wing blogosphere that can influence the outcome of Dem primaries foist on the party candidates so extreme that they stand little chance of winning in November? We are about to see a test case in CT, and indications are that by appealing to moderate Dems and Republicans, Joe Lieberman might well defeat Lamont and Republican Alan Schlesinger [perceived as a less-than-A-list candidate].
The influence and nature of the blogs were an important focus of Lieberman's interview this morning by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America:
Sawyer: "Some of your supporters have gone very far on the bloggers. They said this is the first for the anti-war bloggers and some of them have called them names like extremists, saying that they have engaged in everything from dirty tricks to even bigotry was a word that was suggested. Do you think that the the extremists hijacked your party in your state; will you agree with that statement?"
Lieberman: "The blogs are a form of expression. There's nothing wrong with a blog. It depends on how you use it. I will tell you that the bloggers who came after me - - some of them were so full of hatred that it is the just not good for our politics. Frankly, on some of those blogs, there was the kind of bigotry that has no place in American public life. So I worry that this victory yesterday by Ned Lamont, which was a narrow victory, will send a message across our state and our country that the Democratic party has taken -- has been taken over by people who are not from the mainstream of America."
Continuing, Lieberman sought to tie himself to a man who campaigned for him in the primary but could well now be supporting his opponet.
Lieberman: "[The left-wing blogs] are going to make this not Bill Clinton's Democratic party anymore. Remember, Bill Clinton was a mainstream democrat who was elected twice and governed with great success."
Over at the Today show, Matt Lauer questioned Joe's party loyalty, and Lieberman made clear no Dem could dissuade him from pursuing his independent candidacy.
Lauer's first question out of the box: "I imagine your phone will start to ring pretty early this morning. The likes of Frank Lautenberg and maybe Bill Clinton saying step aside. The voters have spoken. Will you take their calls or screen them?"
Lieberman: "I will always take the calls of friends, but my mind is made up."
Lauer returned to the theme: "There a lot of Democrats who think you're putting your own personal ambitions ahead of the good of the party."
Lauer's closing question: "Is there any phone call you could receive, is there anyone in the Democratic party who could call you today and ask you to drop out that you would listen to?"
Lieberman: "Respectfully, no. I am committed to this campaign, to a different kind of politics, to bringing the Democratic party back from Ned Lamont, Maxine Waters to the mainstream."
Now that the netroots have their man, will they modify their message to appeal to the broader electorate. Or might the left-wing bloggers hold Lamont's feet to the radical fire, preferring to commiserate over a principled loss rather than work toward a possible win?
Mark Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle.' Contact Mark at email@example.com