Double Standards and Gate Crashers
It's undeniable that the pundit class of the media has marginalized progressive voices while highlighting conservative ones. Seeing Robert Reich on the "This Week" roundtable almost made me flip out of my shoes. That never happens. You either get ideological conservatives of the Bill Kristol/George Will stripe or Beltway consensus types of the manner of Gwen Ifill or Cokie Roberts. That's the range of political thought in the pundit class.
And I think a perfect example of this is this story by Chris Bowers about the brouhaha over the Ned Lamont primary race against Joe Lieberman in Connecticut. He's not the only Senator facing a primary challenge. He's not the Senator most in danger from a primary challenge. But the pundit class simply can't believe that a progressive candidate would dare use the tools of democracy to try to unseat Holy Joe from his well-deserved perch. Chris explains:
Ned Lamont's campaign has generated quite a bit of press lately. In fact, Google News lists 341 hits for "Ned Lamont" in the last month. It is particularly interesting how much more interest this campaign has generated form the press than two other, arguably more serious (or at least more advanced) primary challenges against sitting U.S. Senators have generated. For example, in Rhode Island, the most "liberal" Republican of all, Lincoln Chafee is being challenged by hard-right Stephan Laffey and the extremist Club for Growth. Two recent polls (see Polling Report's subscriber section) have shown Chafee under 50%, and Laffey within single digits. However, despite the seriousness of this challenge, there have been only 39 hits in the last month on Google News for "Steven Laffey." That is only one-ninth the total for Ned Lamont, despite no poll in Connecticut showing the race particularly close. Further, in Hawaii, Ed Case is challenging arguably more progressive Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary, and polls indicate that the race might be close (although there are real questions about those polls). However, when it comes to this race, there have been only 49 articles on Google News over the past month.
It is also interesting how the same sources that are defending Lieberman have not editorialized in favor of Chafee or Akaka. The New Republic has no commentary on the Hawaii primary, and in its two pieces on the Rhode Island primary, it does not editorialize as in favor of Chafee ala Jonathan Chait in favor of Lieberman. Stuart Rothenberg's opening piece on the primary challenges in Hawaii and Rhode Island featured no editorializing at all. I guess he wasn't as bothered by incumbents being challenged from the right as he clearly was by incumbents from the left. I can't find a single word from the DLC about either the Hawaii or Rhode Island primaries.
This is a clear double-standard. A somewhat more longshot, left-wing challenge to a sitting U.S. Senator has generated far more news and more pro-incumbent editorializing from the political and media establishment than have two very threatening, right-wing challenges to sitting U.S. Senators. I believe that this double-standard can only be interpreted as a another example of the political and media establishment developing a narrative where liberals and progressives in America are portrayed as extremists, while conservatives are portrayed as mainstream. What other rationale could there be? Why aren't groups like the Club for Growth being lambasted by the political and media establishment for running a primary challenge against Chafee? Why isn't Ed Case being accused of trying to "purge" the Democratic Party of liberals? Why is the political and media establishment coming to the defense of Joe Lieberman and not Lincoln Chafee or Daniel Akaka, even though Lieberman's situation is less perilous than either Akaka's or Chafee's?
Because the Lamont campaign is not funded by the usual suspects, because it exists outside the typical Beltway campaign structure, without their consultants, without their media people, without their pollsters, it represents a real threat. A threat to job security, to be sure, but a threat to the institutional structure of a political class that has no connection to the people it represents. Case and Laffey are not that kind of threat, so they are ignored, or treated with kid gloves.
I don't think there's any turning back for this kind of movement, try as the political class might to stop it. The progressive movement, which is people-powered, will only expand in the coming years, and the dinosaurs of the current political structure in the Democratic Party will die off. It's inevitable.
P.S. This professor explains why Lieberman is in a world of trouble in this primary. In short, the people most motivated to vote (which are the only ones who typically vote in a primary) have no reason to vote for him.