First off, let me restate that I believe a Ned Lamont victory in the CT primary or, better yet, general election would be a hugely great and important thing, because it would establish the importance of the netroots as a force to be reckoned with in its own right, and not just a giant piggybank and pool of cheap labor. I believe that this realization is necessary for the salvation of the Democratic Party's soul. But I'm not sure that it is sufficient.
The Democratic Party's disdain for and fear of the netroots is a symptom of a larger problem, one that I will call "the DLC myth." This myth began when Bill Clinton defeated George Bush I in 1992. Instead of drawing the trivially obvious conclusion that a charismatic and politically brilliant outsider can defeat an unpopular, out-of-touch incumbent, the Democratic cargo cult instead concluded that Clinton's centrism was the secret to his success, and that a triangulating, Run-DLC strategy would secure Democratic supremacy until the end of time.
Obviously, it didn't work out that way. Democrats-who-are-not-Bill-Clinton have suffered a steady string of humiliating electoral defeats against a Republican party that is inept, corrupt, and quite often nakedly evil. And yet, the Democrats, with the eager encouragement of the right-wing commentariat, not only cling stubbornly to the DLC myth, but actually see their losses as a vindication of it. Surely, they think, they are not losing because their opposition to godawful Republican policies and nominees has been intermittent and half-assed. No, they are losing because they can't make all those salt-of-the-earth, middle American swing voters forget about Crazy Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan and all those other unhinged Bush-hating lefties who want to hug terrorists and and ban Jesus and force everyone's kids to marry gay people. Surely, if they could just run to the center and appease the Republicans a little more, and convince Ma & Pa American Gothic that the barking mad hippie moonbats don't speak for the Democratic Party, they would really start to get the votes in truckloads.
Personally, I think this is just stupid. Failure to consistently oppose Republican policies and nominees stamps the Democrats as spineless and unprincipled, not bipartisan and noble, and it costs them votes all the way across the political spectrum. But hey, what do I know? I'm not a highly-paid political consultant with a proven track record of losing elections.
So, to return to the subject at hand (Ned Lamont - I can't blame you if you've forgotten by now): Would a Lamont victory do anything to expose the falsity of the DLC myth? Alas, I don't believe it would. The same factors that work in Ned's favor (solidly blue state, no Republican candidate to speak of) are the same factors that make his campaign a poor test case for progressive strategy overall. In other words, it doesn't really prove anything to the Democratic leadership if a progressive Democrat beats a fake Democrat in a blue state. Now, if progressive Dems start winning in purple or even red states and districts, then the Democrats as a whole might just jump on progressivism like the 70s jumped on bellbottoms. They might even start to embrace the netroots willingly as partners, rather than grudgingly as yet another power base to be appeased. Caveat: This all assumes that the Democrats have embraced centrism because they sincerely want to win, and are just misguided. If they have embraced centrism as a cover story for doing the bidding of big corporate donors, then nothing will change.
My point is not that a Lamont win wouldn't be the best thing to happen to the progressive movement in a long long time; it would. My point is that I have come to realize that it's only part of the puzzle, and I need to pay more attention to the lower-profile progressive campaigns and candidates around the country, who may ultimately send an even broader and more important message than Ned can. Not just "The netroots are important," but "Progressives can win." And with the Republicans perhaps as unpopular as they have ever been, this may be the best opportunity progressives will have for decades. Unless, of course, Iraq and America continue to free-fall - but what are the odds of that, eh?
Question to ponder: If the progressive/oppositional candidates consistently overachieve in November, and the centrist/appeasing candidates consistently underachieve, will the Democratic leadership notice? And if not, how can we make them? How do we rub their noses in the reality of what works and what doesn't? (Assuming that I'm right about what works, of course)