JACKSON, LAMONT, NEW POLITICS. Mike has a point about the implications of having Al Sharpton on stage with Lamont, and in particular directly behind his shoulder, which will be the visual. Someone up there needed to say, "OK, everyone who's not from Connecticut, to the edges, right now, and yes, that means you too, Reverend!" (The person who does that is called "the body guy," and it's a special skill.)
I don't agree about Jesse Jackson, however, and not just because he's "past his prime." Jackson's mistakes were never comparable to Sharpton's, and never destructive. And in retrospect, Jackson's campaigns in 1984 and 1988 look exactly like the progenitors of what successful progressive campaigns like Wellstone's or Lamont's should be -- politically savvy, multi-racial coalitions around core economic and direction-of-the-country issues. It's no accident that some of the most talented organizers in politics came out of those campaigns.
The disappointing thing about having Sharpton over his shoulder is that it took away from the actually very impressive tableau of people on stage with Lamont. Not exactly the crowd of latte-swilling suburban reformers you would be led to expect! I don't know my minor Connecticut political figures by sight anymore, but I did spot the House Majority Leader up there, Chris Donovan, and some guys who sure look like labor guys, and some Latinos and a good number of African-Americans who were not named Sharpton or Jackson or Waters.
The Lieberman dais, on the other hand, was crowded with...well, Liebermans. Which I guess is appropriate. If you're now the candidate of the "Connecticut for Lieberman" party, your core supporters should be actual Liebermans.
The level of African-American support for Lamont -- 55-41, according to the exit poll -- is actually very, very impressive. Black voters have often not rushed to support primary challenges, especially white suburban reformers challenging mainstream Dems. Lieberman's heavy campaigning in black churches and his relentless invocation of his civil rights street cred indicated that he thought he could bring this constituency home. And in many ways, Lieberman should be a strong candidate for black voters -- liberal on most domestic issues, and his differences are on issues like school vouchers and religious expression that tend to have more support among blacks than whites. His flirtation with opposing affirmative action (in which he was hardly alone) ended a decade ago.
It could be that Lieberman's speech criticizing Bill Clinton -- which is what got Congresswoman Waters charged up -- was the start of his problem, or the affirmative action statement long ago. But more likely, it was the same thing as everyone else: Iraq, which is hugely unpopular among African-Americans, and Bush.
(There's a very sad line in Matt Taibbi's piece on Lieberman in Rolling Stone: After recounting Lieberman's business-as-usual "I met Dr. King" performance in a black church, he quotes Regina Meade, one of the churchgoers: "I hate the Sixties and I'm tired of hearing about it. I lost a cousin in the war. Twenty-nine years old. What about that? What about that?")
And in a sense, this is another part of the story of the end of interest-group politics: African-Americans becoming broadly progressive voters on the Big Questions, rather than a group that a Dem like Lieberman looks at and repeats the condescending mantra of "I registered voters in the South and I have a dream and I'm for affirmative action" -- treating them as if they can be easily bought off on their one or two issues.
I think that's the kind of broadly progressive politics that the Jackson campaigns were trying to construct, which is why I found it not only appropriate, but quite moving that he was there.
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