Parties blinded by orthodoxy in primaries
Primaries are usually mere political formalities, particularly if the incumbent is running for re-election. This year, however, there were two very intense primaries in the U.S. Senate races. One was a Republican primary and the other was a Democratic primary. Though a loyal Democrat, I regret to say that the result of the Democratic Senate primary was highly disappointing, in contrast to the strategic acuteness displayed in the GOP primary.
Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Senator of Connecticut, enjoys national reputation for his independent streak. Unfortunately, his support for the War in Iraq has earned him many enemies inside his own party. In spite of Lieberman's political experience, sincerity and strong progressive conviction (earning a 100 percent pro-choice rating), many liberals hated his "bipartisanship" and attempted to replace him with a certain millionaire with no political experience, Ned Lamont.
Lincoln Chafee, the Republican Senator of Rhode Island, also enjoys national reputation as the most liberal GOP senator in the Senate. Unfortunately, his image as a party renegade earned him many enemies from the conservative faction of the Republican Party. In spite of Chafee's fiscal conservatism and his need to represent his blue state, many conservatives attempted to replace him with a self-proclaimed conservative mayor, Stephen Laffey.
Ideological purists in any party scorn those in their own party who dare to challenge the orthodox doctrine, accusing them of being traitors, fakers or both. Both Lieberman and Chafee were accused of being absolutely useless to their party, if not a total embarrassment. Did those two men deserve such treatment from their fellow party members?
Of course not. While certainly in disagreement with most Democrats over Iraq, Lieberman is certainly an honorable, hawkish progressive. He has supported the party's position on the environment, civil rights and labor issues, while defending this nation from those who seek to harm it. While the Democrats can certainly disagree with Lieberman's foreign policy, we ought to have stood firm with a faithful Democratic senator of moral virtues and progressive conviction.
Lincoln Chafee is a typical New England Republican. He has defended the economic philosophy of his party, supporting vouchers, a balanced budget and free trade. At the same time, his votes reflect the views of his liberal constituents on abortion, the death penalty and the environment. In fact, Chafee's renegade behaviors are hardly different from many red state Democrats who pile moderate records to win the election.
What were the results of the primaries? Lincoln Chafee faced nearly insurmountable opposition from Stephen Laffey. However, the GOP leadership supported Chafee all the way. Chafee won the primary and gave the GOP a fighting chance to hold on to its seat in Rhode Island and a nearly likely chance to retain the Senate majority. And Joe Lieberman? While it was a close vote, Lieberman was defeated by Lamont. He now campaigns as an independent, under pressure from the party loyalists to quit.
Ideologically, neither Chafee nor Lieberman were strict adherents to their party doctrine. However, they were still faithful party members who were of high value to the party. The Republican Party saw this value in Chafee. They saw in Chafee a candidate who can win in the Northeast, protect party control over the Senate and support its agenda (with certain understandable limits).
The Democratic Party should have seen the value of Lieberman. They should have realized that Lieberman is an upright progressive who could bolster the party's image as a sincere, patriotic, religion-friendly party. Temporarily setting aside its intense bitterness toward President Bush, the party should have seen that Lieberman's bipartisanship brings sorely needed harmony and efficiency to the polarized Senate. I regret to say that my party failed to see these values in Lieberman.
However, there is still a chance of redemption for the Democratic Party. In November the Democrats will have a choice. Would they want a political novice, single-issue candidate to be their representative in the Senate, or would they reverse their mistake and bring a truly qualified leader back to the Senate?
Jong Eun Lee is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and a liberal columnist for The Eagle.