Reassembling Party Politics From the Mixed Message of Connecticut

You can hear them now.

The pollster will be explaining how it can be done, how weak the Republican candidate is (gambling debts), how Connecticut has an independent streak, how he was closing the gap and if the election had just gone a few more days. …

The media guys will talk about the ads they can do, how great that two-minute spot they did at the end worked, how they can put together some really unconventional stuff and marginalize Ned Lamont as a one-issue candidate. ...

The campaign manager will talk about the party — what it means if the left gets the message that they can just take over and knock off whoever they choose — and how Joe Lieberman is the one to stand up and fight back. ...

The people around a candidate all have a stake in his run for office. They’re in the business of running campaigns instead of "not running" campaigns. They don’t make money off campaigns closing down. Only the lawyers do.

So who’s going to tell Joe that he could very easily lose come November? Who’s going to tell him that Ned might actually be good for the Democratic Party?

I wasn’t a big fan of Joe’s speech about Bill Clinton’s morality, but other than that, I’ve always liked him. I especially like his wife, who’s a very classy lady. I would’ve voted for him if I lived in Connecticut. But it’s over.

The Democratic Party is going to come together behind Ned Lamont in Connecticut and nationally. Joe Lieberman is history. Sorry.

Not only is it going to come together, but it should do so enthusiastically. New energy actually went into the nomination of Ned Lamont. New energy is something the Democratic Party could actually use and should genuinely welcome.

More importantly, now that the primary is over, this is the time to recognize that we actually have an issue that is powerful enough to bring new voters and new enthusiasm to the party, if only we have the courage to ride it. It is not wrong to do so; the voters want the party to do so; they want an opportunity to express themselves, and if liberal bloggers are the only ones who can see that, more power to them.

You know the message Joe will take from the Democratic primary: He will take the message that he almost won. You know that even if his campaign manager, in good faith, seeks to expose him to other points of view, by the time the people get in the room with him, they’ll be saying anything you want Joe. Besides, candidates tend to hear what they want to hear.

You know that the conservatives will be crowing that the left-wing has taken over the Democratic Party and that Hillary had better be quaking because they’re coming after her next. You know they’re saying that because the best they can do in this race is support a guy who has promised to organize as a Democrat if he wins, and the underlying message that was so strongly anti-Bush is one that they just don’t want to deal with.

Hillary is going to be fine. By the time the Iowa caucus rolls around, I have no doubt that she will have fully parted ways with the Bush administration, that is, unless the Bush administration has committed itself to troop withdrawal. I say this based upon no inside information, but the sheer logic of things.

The challenge for democrats now — and this is why I say Joe is history — is to turn the war from an intraparty issue into an interparty issue to define the midterm. The fact is Joe was one of only six democrats not to go along with the party on a resolution on troop withdrawal earlier this summer. He and Hillary do not take the same position on the war. He has always been out of step with other democrats on his continued support of Bush. The line must be drawn, and Joe is on the other side of it.

For democrats, it’s time to stop being afraid to stand where a majority of Americans stand and on the issue a majority of Americans care most about in an election year.

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Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.

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