Back when I was a New York Conservative, in the 1960s (I was, really) the words Jacob Javits drew a shudder from my friends. Javits was that strangest of creatures, an honest-to-goodness liberal Republican. We hated him. I learned about anti-semitism by listening to my elders speak of him. (David Horowitz, watch your back.)
The purpose of the New York Conservative Party was to run people like Jacob Javits out. (This was finally accomplished in 1980, after he'd been diagnosed with ALS, from which he died in 1986.) And, as I've noted many times, today's Democratic Netroots are the Goldwater movement of our time.
So, who's Jacob Javits now?
It's so obvious it's not even a game piece. It's like asking "Who's Lyndon Johnson now?" (Bush.)
Joe Lieberman inspires passionnate opposition from Netroots activists for the same reason Javits was hated by the Goldwater crowd. He earns it.
Lieberman is an Anti-Thesis politician, so much so that in his latter career he has embraced and (often) even endorsed the political Thesis of his time, the Thesis of Conflict brought to us by Richard Nixon, brought to glory by Ronald Reagan, and brought to grief by George W. Bush.
Lieberman has internalized this Thesis to such an extent that he expects credit for any vote he may cast that defies it. He considers each such vote to be an act of rare political courage. Liberals consider such votes common sense.
But just as a Thesis reaches its sell-by date when an Excess belief in it turns America toward Crisis (as is now happening), so too does the Anti-Thesis. This is especially true for an Anti-Thesis candidate who has become completely co-dependent on the Thesis, as Lieberman has. As Javits depended on the New Deal Thesis brought forward by FDR, brought to glory by Harry Truman, and brought crashing down by Lyndon Johnson, 40 years ago.
The hate in both cases has the same root.
The bad news for liberals is that Javits remained in the Senate for a long, long, time -- four terms to be exact. The Conservative candidate of 1968, James L. Buckley, got just 17% of the vote. (Javits ran on the Liberal line that year, in addition to the Republican line. He won easily.)
Just because an Anti-Thesis is failing doesn't mean it's ready to fall. Of course, that doesn't mean it isn't, either. Connecticut in 2006 may be much less-friendly for Joe Lieberman than the New York of 1966 was for Jack Javits.
Let me end with some words I gave to the MyDD blog early this year:
Joe Lieberman is to today's Democrats what Jacob Javits was to Republicans 40 years ago. Javits won in 1968, but a Conservative named James L. Buckley got a hefty chunk, and when the Nixon Administration pushed hard for Buckley in 1970, he beat incumbent Charles Goodall.
Opposing Lieberman is a statement, a statement that Fighting Democrats won't take it anymore, not even from their own side. It's worth the effort regardless of the outcome.
And the outcome could well be that Lamont, as the nominee, loses to Bushite Republican X because Lieberman draws a big chunk in November.
Them's the risks. But if you're not willing to fight for a principle, I got no use for you. If you stand for nothing, you'll stand for anything.