(Cross-posted at MyDD.)
Back in April, in the face of massive public support for a clear timeline to end the war in Iraq, only two Republicans in the House and two in the Senate dared to buck the White House’s pressure tactics and vote for the Iraq Accountability Act. The four were Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD).
Coincidentally, all four are now facing potential primary challenges from the right.
In Nebraska, Sen. Hagel, the most noted opponent of Bush’s Iraq policy in his party, is facing a very real challenge from Attorney General Jon Bruning (who even led Hagel in a recent primary poll):
“It’s pretty clear Nebraska voters understand Sen. Hagel is voting with the Democratic Party on the issue that they feel is most important at this time, which is the Iraq war, and that’s troubling to them”
Meanwhile, in Oregon, Sen. Smith is facing the current wrath and potential candidacy of anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore for his perceived lack of partisan loyalty:
“At the national level, Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of defeating Gordon Smith. After all he has done for liberals in Oregon, they still want to take him out, simply because he is a Republican. To them, a Republican in name only is still a Republican. Smith’s political vulnerability is no secret.”
Rep. Walter “Freedom Fries” Jones’ marked turn away from supporting Bush’s Iraq policy has been the “single issue” encouraging Joseph McLaughlin, an obscure country commissioner, to challenge the seven-term Congressman from a “safe seat” in North Carolina:
“A number of us have become very concerned about his drift to the left, espousing ideas that we don’t think reflect the views of the conservative base back in the district,” McLaughlin said. “Virtually every major vote on the war on terror, he has lined up with the liberals.”
And in Maryland, Rep. Gilchrest is facing a well-organized primary challenge from right-wing State Senator Andy Harris:
“People across the country desire to return to the Reagan values that brought the Republican Party to power – fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense, traditional values and an optimistic view of this country and its role as a world leader,” Harris said.
Primary challenges are wonderful things. In our two-party, big-money system with engineered super-safe districts for incumbents, it’s where the real small-d democracy gets done these days. The more choices for voters, the better. These four potential primaries, as well as the presidential primaries in the early states, will have the added benefit of providing an early look for the entire nation at the direction GOP activists want the Republican party to take on Iraq.
However, this pro-democracy opinion of primaries (especially those where Iraq is a major issue) was certainly not one shared by right-wing and “centrist” politicians, “civil” pro-war pundits, and other members of the “reasonable” traditional media establishment, all of whom happily took part in last summer’s Rove-inspired media orgy demonizing the year’s most significant primary challenge and grassroots movement as nothing but an attempted party “purge.” (Nevermind that the incumbent in question actually promised to quit the party himself before the primary, and then swiftly followed up on it after losing).
So, a question: How many of the following figures who were so quick to see Stalinism in Stamford last August will be denouncing pro-war Republicans for their attempted quadruple “purge” this cycle? Don’t hold your breath:
It’s no wonder that so much time is being given to the Democratic primary in Connecticut, and that so many voices are being heard. The ideological triumphalists proclaim it a great renewal in the Democratic Party, beginning with the glorious purge of Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
– William F. Buckley, August 12, 2006
It should be noted that both Cheney and Mehlman pointedly referred to the Lamont win as a “purge,” echoing the seminal anti-Lamont editorial by the Democratic Leadership Council from two months ago which used the term eight times. They were joined in that effort last week by virtually the entire conservative punditry establishment, with everyone from Cal Thomas (“Purge by Taliban Democrats” was his clever innovation) to American Conservative Union chief Patrick Keene (“The purge that began with the McGovernite seizure of the party . . . “) to Foundation for Defense of Democracies president Clifford May (“The August Purge of Lieberman,” a funny historical malapropism; May was trying to echo Soviet Russia, which had an August putsch, not a purge) to Fox’s John McIntyre to a whole host of others decrying Lamont’s supporters as rich, elitist, neo-commie liberals bent on softening us all up for a terrorist attack, apparently just for the pure, America-hating thrill of it.
– Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, August 15, 2006
Meanwhile, the New York Times’s David Brooks lashed out at the “liberal inquisition” unfolding in Connecticut, the type of phenomenon that could be understood “only [by] experts in moral manias and mob psychology.” ABC’s Cokie Roberts sang from the choir sheet this Sunday morning, announcing a Lamont win would mean “a disaster for the Democratic Party.”
Roberts’s ABC colleague Jake Tapper labeled Lieberman’s challenge as a “a party purge of a moderate Democrat”; a cliché repeated constantly among the talking heads. Los Angeles Times columnist Jonathan Chait ridiculed grassroots Lamont activists by suggesting “their technique of victory-via-purge is on display in Connecticut.” Martin Peretz, editor in chief of The New Republic, who in a recent radio interview refused to say whether he actually wanted Democrats to gain control of Congress in November, denounced the “thought-enforcers of the left” supporting Lamont, whom Peretz mocked as “Karl Rove’s dream come true.”
Earlier in the campaign, Washington Post columnist David Broder dismissed Connecticut’s progressives as “elitist insurgents.” Over at the Rothenberg Political Report, Beltway mainstay Stuart Rothenberg was in a tizzy that Lamont’s win would “only embolden the crazies in the [Democratic] party,” the “bomb-throwers.” (Like Broder, Rothenberg opted for terror terminology to describe the democratic process unfolding in Connecticut.)
– Eric Boehlert, The Nation, August 11, 2006
“And as I look at what happened yesterday, it strikes me that it’s a perhaps unfortunate and significant development from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, that what it says about the direction the party appears to be heading in when they, in effect, purge a man like Joe Lieberman, who was just six years ago their nominee for Vice President, is of concern, especially over the issue of Joe’s support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.”
– Vice President Cheney, August 9, 2006