'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Nine Lives of Joe Lieberman 

Of course, the Kossacks over at Daily Kos, as well as the FDLs over at firedoglake, are, with a few exceptions, enraged that the Joe Lieberman has been permitted to retain his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security committee. Yet again, we are treated to that classic liberal binary opposition, that terrible Joe Lieberman versus those wishy washy Senators who just can't stand up to his bullying, manipulative practices. If only they would spend the 99 cents and buy the body building kit advertised for sale in the back pages of their EC comic.

There's only one problem. There's no truth to it. As I explained when the congressional Democrats approved funding for the Iraq war in late March of 2007 with the assistance of openly antiwar representatives:

. . . . a brief consideration of the career of Joseph Lieberman is instructive. He entered politics as an opponent of the Vietnam War, but, by 1988, he successfully ran to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker to win a seat in the Senate. Weicker personified two evils: he was too dovish on foreign policy, and his style, if allowed to go national, implicitly threatened elites by appealing to people across party lines.

Ned Lamont presented a similar threat last year, and prominent Democratic Senators like Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer and Chuck Schumer answered Lieberman's fire alarm for assistance. Lieberman is frequently reviled for being a turncoat, a hypocrite, but he is, in fact, a visionary, he anticipated the current political landscape of the country, and, indeed, the world, before the Cold War ended and has played an essential role in shaping it. Unlike other liberals, who feign opposition to neoconservative policy, while facilitating the funding of it, Lieberman expresses his support for it unabashedly.

So, there is nothing surprising about Lieberman's retention, because, campaign antics aside, he remains firmly within the flexible center of Democratic politics in support of military neoliberalism at home and abroad. Again, as I explained back in March 2007:

Given the choice between energizing a populist movement for the fulfillment of domestic needs instead of using 9/11 for colonial intervention, liberals, at best, selected the course of ineffectual, theatrical opposition. Even the catastrophe of Katrina did not cause them to question their core belief that populism presents a grave social threat to the preservation of the American system, so much so that the international state violence of the neoconservatives is begrudgingly accepted. If one accepts the controversial premise that military neoliberalism is now the only plausible means of enforcing a US inspired global economic system that prioritizes the privileges of finance capital above all human concerns, they may well be correct.

It is essential to observe that Lieberman and President-elect Obama share a commitment to a post-partisan politics based upon consensus and the need to end the politics of division and distraction. Not surprisingly, Obama communicated his wish to Senate Democrats that Lieberman remain in the Democratic caucus, making it difficult to impose any sanction upon him.

It is also essential to recognize, that, in the current environment, there is only avenue available for such an approach, the one already mapped by Lieberman. But if you want to challenge the privileges of finance capital, reduce the US global military presence by, among other things, deescalating the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and reinvest the proceeds within the American economy, then polarization is the only way forward. So far, the only indication is that Lieberman and Obama are still political soulmates, even if their personal relationship has become problematic.

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