For a long time now, I've believed that either the Democrats make major changes, and oust their most radical elements, or they are dead. For the last few months, I've been betting on the latter.
The scenario I've thought most likely has been a calving of the Republican party into two parties along indeterminate (and at the level I'm thinking about, basically irrelevant) lines, but how's this for an alternate scenario, brought on by the article Democrats would be weaker without Lieberman by Marc Danzinger, which I will quote:
And when Lieberman is sitting in his Senate office next year, do you think the Democratic Party will be stronger or weaker for his departure?
I say it will be weaker.
It will be weaker because a losing Lamont candidacy will not have local and regional coattails as large as Lieberman's - and I somehow don't see Lieberman doing a lot of campaigning for downballot offices in the next few months.
It will be weaker because a senior sitting senator will owe very little allegiance to the national party.
Weaker because other senior officials will sit and weigh the cost of party allegiance against the benefit, and will have a concrete example of what party loyalty buys.
So try this scenario on for size:
- The netroots/nutroots succeeds, and Lamont gets the nomination.
- Lieberman runs as an independent and wins, preferably with a decent margin of victory.
- At least two or three other senior Democrats make the calculations Marc Danzinger postulates, and decides that the Democrats are no longer a net gain for them. They decide to go independent and form a block with Lieberman.
- This opens the doors, and in a matter of months it becomes a Democratic stampede. Lieberman nucleates what would be in essence a new, reformed Democratic party, but looking more like Lieberman (although of course not a clone), looking more centrist, and, most importantly, looking more electable.
- But what really gives this new party legitimacy is that some current Republicans jump ship to it as well. A few smart ones who can see what is coming may want to get in at the ground floor, others may simply find it a better ideological match.
Will this actually happen? I don't know. I wouldn't bet on it. But I think it's in the realm of the possible. Ya gotta toss out these crazy theories every once in a while so that if one of them happens, you can point back at it and say "Aha! I told you so!"
(For context, and especially before sending me nastygrams, you may wish to read my Government Myths bits about how parties work in the United States. I believe that political parties are effects of ideologies, not causes, and I don't believe that the death of the organization currently calling itself the Democratic Party will change very many minds about very many ideological issues. From my point of view, which party holds what views is just historical accident and I really don't care. I will freely admit that currently I am aligned Republican, but there are at least five issues I can think of off the top of my head that a new party could turn my head with. This is speculation, neither a fervent hope nor a horrible nightmare to me.)