I think heterodoxy is great. Which is to say that I have a certain number of more-or-less heterodox views -- about the death penalty, about affirmative action, about gun control, about education, etc. -- and I think those views are great. But in virtue of my thinking those views are great, what I actually want is to convince people to adopt my views, which is natural. Being heterodox is a bad thing, not because everyone should conform to the prevailing orthodoxy but because if you're heterodox it means your side is losing the argument -- the goal is to turn your heterodox views into the new orthodoxy. Thus, I find a lot of this liberal hawk special pleading on behalf of Joe Lieberman a bit disingenuous.The thing that has really been bothering me about the way the Lamont/Lieberman debate has developed is the fact that one side doesn't really see the debate as legitamite. If they did Anti-Lamont forces would debate policies and ideas for the future of the party. Instead you have a bunch of people who won't dare defend Lieberman on his merits attacking the opposition on essentially procedural grounds.
I mean, back in the day (circa spring 2003) when liberal hawks were riding high was there a big move afoot to ensure that a robust dovish faction remained in the Democratic Party for the sake of serving the higher goals of diversity and heterodoxy? Of course not -- that would have been silly. The idea was to remake the party in their image.
Since primary challenges are a long-established legal part of our government this has lead to some... "interesting" arguements. The lamest and most popular is the heterodoxy argument stated above. But that's well worn. In the NY Times, instead of arguing that Connecticut should vote for Leiberman becuase he represents their views David Brooks argues that the fact that "[Lieberman] is transparently the most kind-hearted and well-intentioned of men". I seen people argue that the Lamont challenge is not legitamite becuase he's being funded by out of state blogger. It would be a half-way decent point too, if Lieberman wasn't getting a larger percetage of out of state funding (74%!) than his challenger.
Jon Chait wrote a piece at the begining of this whole affair that while wrong is at least honest:
In the end, though, I can't quite root for Lieberman to lose his primary. What's holding me back is that the anti-Lieberman campaign has come to stand for much more than Lieberman's sins. It's a test of strength for the new breed of left-wing activists who are flexing their muscles within the party. These are exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They think in simple slogans and refuse to tolerate any ideological dissent.I think this get's right down to it. They don't like Lieberman but they really don't like the left-wing. It's called "irrational fear of hippies". Ezra extrapolates on this: "Politics is identity" he says, and the political identity of many of these Anti-Lamonter's is defined by opposition to outsiders. They arose in opposition to the New Left and when faced with a totally new paradigm (what we might call "Netroots") they find themselves unable to distinguish the difference. Of course they see Kos as the harbinger of fascism: he doesn't like TNR, right? Everyone who's not us is the same.
In a round-about way Chait hints at a debate on the merits of the two candidates... sort of:
Moreover, since their anti-Lieberman jihad is seen as stemming from his pro-war stance, the practical effect of toppling Lieberman would be to intimidate other hawkish Democrats and encourage more primary challengers against them.It seems some Anti-Lamonter at least are honest about the task before them even if they don't want to undertake it. After all, to convince people that we shouldn't try to "intimidate other hawkish Democrats" it helps if you argue that Hawkish Democrats are right on the merits.
Identity politcs is destructive though a fair amount will always be with us. Certainly there are many on the Pro-Lamont side who are just as petty. However, we should never duck a debate especially one as important the the future of the Democratic party as this one.