Joe Lieberman, centrist in name only

Breaking News

Concerning the late Joe Lieberman, the former U.S. senator from my onetime home state of Connecticut,
CNN offers this information:

On many issues, like abortion and economic policy, Lieberman was a mainstream Democrat. And he will be remembered as one of the last major statesmen of an era when true bipartisanship felt possible in Washington, before today’s polarized times.

Lieberman, who was my contemporary and someone I admired when he first ran for the Senate in 1988, was undoubtedly a nice man. Everyone who knew him testifies to that fact and, above all, to the gentle, courteous way in which he discussed divisive policy issues. Lieberman faithfully observed the Jewish Sabbath and was proud of his religious heritage. He also scolded his fellow Democrat Bill Clinton over his “disgraceful” affair with Monica Lewinsky, although Lieberman later refused to join senators in publicly censuring the president’s act.

It’s high time that commentators who deplore the loss of kindly centrists look reality in the face.

We know that in 2008, Lieberman made himself
persona non grata to his party by openly supporting his friend John McCain as the Republican nominee for president. At that time there were calls in the Democratic Party to expel Lieberman. Already in 2006, the party had nominated a leftist Democrat, Ned Lamont, to run against him for his Senate seat. Lieberman was enormously popular in Connecticut, however. He prevailed in a three-way race and remained in Washington.

You Might Like

He also clearly had a bipartisan fan base. Back in 2000 Lieberman ran as the vice presidential running mate of Democrat Al Gore. But John McCain on the Republican side is said to have regretted not choosing Joe as his vice presidential candidate in his 2008 presidential run.

Going through the milestones in Lieberman’s career, journalists and news anchors emphasize his balanced, centrist positions. We are told, perhaps most explicitly by
Bret Baier and Brit Hume on Fox News, that Lieberman was a true “moderate” who reached across aisles and avoided harsh rhetoric. We should regret his passing because his “centrist,” gentlemanly politics belong to an age when we were not bedeviled by our present uncompromising partisanship. Indeed, Lieberman published a book arguing for the “centrist solution.”

What Lieberman devotees usually overlook is that Lieberman never really stood between two partisan blocs. As CNN properly points out, he was a very conventional Democrat on social and economic issues. No matter how Sabbath-observant he was, he endorsed
his party’s position on abortion. He was cool with racial quotas and supported gay marriage, even while expressing private reservations.

His “conservatism” centered on his passionate attachment to Israel and his markedly neoconservative positions on foreign policy. Those were the views that pushed him into supporting John McCain in 2008, someone with whose foreign policy lined up perfectly with his own.

I can’t think of many domestic issues on which Joe broke from his party, although his personality was certainly easier to take than that of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, or the perpetually obnoxious Eric Swalwell, Adam Schiff, and Jamaal Bowman.

Joe was adored in Connecticut, as Bret Baier reminded his listeners. But that affection was due in large part to Lieberman’s ideological compatibility with one of the bluest states in the country. If Joe were equally nice but held the political opinions of, say, Ted Cruz, he wouldn’t have been elected to any important political post in Connecticut. It was not his “centrism” but his being positioned on the left, while being vocally pro-Israel, that made him a political natural in his state.

Perhaps for those who liked that mixture, it was the height of moderateness, but for most conservative observers it was something less appealing.

This is not to belittle a fine gentleman whose passing I mourn. But I think it’s high time that commentators whom I hear deploring the loss of kindly centrists who brought us all together look reality in the face. Recent congressional centrists, whether Joe Lieberman, Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), or Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), have not exactly fit the description of their adulators. They have usually voted with the left on social and most economic issues, even if they have gone their own way every now and then on certain questions.

Of course, these deviations occur infrequently and usually to the disproportionately loud cheers of establishment Republicans.

It’s also unclear what “centrism” means. In the last 40 years, the politics of the United States and of most Western countries has slid very far toward both authoritarian administration and the woke left. Meanwhile governments have taken measures in the name of fighting “hate” to control our lives and speech. What is the “centrist” position in dealing with this historical development?

What is the “centrist” position when it comes to allowing conservatives to resist the cultural revolution that our government has helped unleash? I’m not sure Lieberman and other “centrists” have had answers to these vexing questions. But then I’m not sure where the political or cultural center is at this moment, either.

Articles You May Like

Boeing defends 787 Dreamliner safety after whistleblower alleged structural flaws
“We Did”, So What Happens Next
Want a Faith-Filled Nation Back? Build the Family
Brussels Authorities Shut Down Conservative Conference, Afraid of Conservatism Gaining Momentum in Europe
Larry David can’t ‘Curb’ Trump derangement in finale fizzle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *