WHOSE PARTY? Big doings in Joe Lieberman's camp this weekend, as Lieberman began collecting signatures for an independent run that would allow him to remain on the ballot even if Ned Lamont wins the Democratic primary. This puts the Democratic Party in a rather awkward position -- Chuck Schumer has hinted that the DSCC will continue supporting Lieberman even if he's an independent. "[Y]ou can run as an independent Democrat," said Schumer, "who pledges to vote for Harry Reid as Majority Leader."
There are two issues here, and much of the coverage has conflated them. There's nothing wrong with Lieberman trying the independent route. Primaries are about nothing more, and nothing less, than a party's endorsement and ballot line. If Lieberman thinks the primary will prove unrepresentative of Connecticut's voters as a whole, he has every right to remain in the race and seek the favor of independents and, yes, Republicans. Senators are supposed to represent states, not bases.
More problematic is Schumer's position. This will be a definitional moment for the DSCC -- is it an arm of the Democratic Party as a Washington institution, or an expression of the party that exists as an organized voice for voters who associate with its ideals? Because the strangeness of an official arm of the Democratic Party deciding that the Democratic primary voters of Connecticut were wrong and should be defeated really cannot be overstated. It would be the most visible, and public, divorce imaginable -- the party telling its base that its first allegiance is to connected incumbents, not the wants and wills of Democratic voters. And that ostentatious a display of establishment primacy would trigger a war, splitting the activists from the party in the most public and acrimonious way.