Joe Lieberman is no conservative. Connecticut’s three-term senator has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, a 76 lifetime rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action and a strongly liberal voting record on issues ranging from health care and education to taxes.
And yet, last year, when Lieberman ran for re-election in the very liberal Connecticut Democratic primary, he failed to win the support of the liberal blogging community, because he dared to deviate from the liberal script on a single issue-Iraq. In fact, Lieberman’s support for America’s victory triggered an ideological witch-hunt that saw him pilloried relentlessly on influential leftwing blogs, leading to his loss to a political neophyte.
Today’s Democratic presidential candidates think they have learned the lesson of Lieberman: Antagonize the liberal blogosphere at your own peril. This helps explain why when leftwing bloggers held their annual summit earlier this year all but one of the Democratic presidential candidates showed up, and so many high-profile Democrats attended that the Washington Post proclaimed the event the "Democrats’ other convention."
Most recently, with the shrieking voices of their online allies in the virtual ears, the top Democratic presidential contenders pulled out of a debate sponsored by Fox News. Though the debate was co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, whose 43 members are all Democrats, netroots activists made it clear that they did not want Democrats to participate.
An earlier Fox News debate met the same end when liberal bloggers pressured Harry Reid, who initially endorsed the debate, into canceling it. Bloggers informed the Senate majority leader that his Daily Kos straw poll approval rating had dipped from the mid 80s to around 40 percent and that an uprising was brewing over the partnership with Fox News. Then, after MoveOn.org, the Internet activist group that has said it "owns" the Democratic Party, pressured Reid further, that debate was canceled.
The Democrats’ Fox News boycott is curious for two reasons. First, by shunning Fox, the Democrats are ignoring half of America, effectively telling them that their votes are not wanted. These are voters who, heaven forbid, may not have tuned in to previous debates on You Tube or the "gay forum." Democrats have the right to believe that Fox has, as John Edwards insists, "a clear and long history of bias against Democrats," but it’s simply bad politics to slough off Fox, the current cable news market leader, which consistently earns higher points ratings than its chief competitors, CNN and MSNB C, combined and is home to eight of the 10 most-watched cable news shows.
Second, at a time when the Democratic contenders are doing all they can to convince voters that they can be tough with America’s enemies, their avoidance of Fox News conveys not toughness but fear. As liberal talk show host Bill Maher put it: "If you can’t stand up to (Fox News’s) Chris Wallace, can you stand up to terrorists?" How is it
that the Democratic contenders for the White House think they are man-or woman-enough to take on those who wish them dead, but quake at the thought of fielding a tough question from a fellow citizen in a blue suit?
Few Americans would feel comfortable about a President Obama meeting with Iran’s Ahmadinejad, who warns Americans to "convert or die," when he isn’t even man enough to sit down with the likes of Brit Hume to explain a few inconsistencies in his voting record or campaign rheto ric.
The Democrats’ spinelessness extends beyond their fear of being asked prying questions by unfawning questioners on Fox News. What they seem to fear most is the wrath of their own online activists. Daily Kos was founded in 2002 as response to "those dark days when an oppressive and war-crazed administration suppressed all dissent as unpatriotic and treasonous." Five years later, the liberal blogosphere has become precisely what it once loathed.
Americans respect those tough enough for a fight and smart enough not to take it too far. Whether it’s Teddy Roosevelt taking a hill, John Kennedy charging the high seas or George H.W. Bush in the skies, Americans love a president with the grit and strength of character to face what must be done.
That is why the Republican presidential candidates do not groan about having to take part in debates sponsored by liberal new s outlets, including CNN, ABC News and MSNBC and moderated by liberal commentators like former Clinton advisor George Stephanopoulos and Chris Matthews.
Unlike liberals, conservatives-from the schoolyard, to the college classroom, to the workplace and the highest levels of government-are used to having to defend their views against unfriendly inquisitors. Conservatives know that taking a hit, a tough question or a rude suggestion comes with the territory. But with all of the Big Media firmly in the grasp of the liberal mindset, it’s sand in the oyster of Democrats’ lives to have to put up with a few dissenters.
As they continue to kowtow to their activist fringe, it’s become clear that the Democrats failed to learn the real lesson of Lieberman, whose political career didn’t end with his primary defeat. After leaving the political party that all but abandoned him, Lieberman was re -elected as an Independent in the general election and remains a leading voice in the Senate in defense of U.S. victory in Iraq.
If the best and the brightest that the Democratic Party has to offer cannot stand up to a few bloggers sitting in their mothers’ basements in their pajamas armed with nothing but keyboards and café lattes, how will they stand up to crazed dictators with million-man armies and nuclear weapons? The answer may reveal why Joe Lieberman left the Democratic Party.