Edsall on Lieberman’s defeat

Tom Edsall thinks that Lieberman’s loss shows that upscale Democrats don’t care enough about the views of lunchbucket Democrats. I disagree.

Tom Edsall thinks that Lamont’s victory in Connecticut, in which he won big among upscale voters while losing the lunchbucket crowd, means that the Brie-and-Chardonnay Democrats are prepared to keep losing. It’s a reasonable analysis, but I don’t think it’s true, or, at least, I don’t think the evidence Tom offers really supports it.

First, Lieberman was the “regular” candidate. It’s not suprising that downscale voters in a primary will tend to support the “regular” against the “insurgent,” since those working-class voters who go to the polls in primaries tend to be mobilized by the party machinery and the unions.

Second, the extent of Lieberman’s disloyalty has been really quite impressive, and he seems to have run a stupid and nasty campaign against Lamont. I wouldn’t have favored putting up an anti-Lieberman candidate in the primary, just because we have bigger fish to fry this year. But, as someone very concerned with winning and very alert to the need to appeal to Red-state cultural prejudices (my Presidential candidates for ’08 would be Clark, Edwards, and Warner, in no particular order), I would have voted for Lamont on Tuesday.

Footnote: Mickey Kaus challenges the claim that voting split along class lines by citing income numbers. But they’re not the same thing. Years of education (or, better, parents’ years of education) is a much better proxy for social class than is income, and the geography seems to bear out Edsall’s analysis.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

7 thoughts on “Edsall on Lieberman’s defeat”

  1. But Mark, what was the "black" vote for Lamont, which group is predominately in low income neighborhoods? I thought the "black" vote went overwhelmingly for Lamont. Do poor blacks count as upscale somehow in terms of social class?
    I guess what you're saying is that the white working class vote was stronger for Lieberman. However, I think many of the Dems who voted for Lieberman are not going to be happy with his post-primary election conduct.
    Also, has anyone figured out how many Reeps voted in that primary, which would have inflated Liebermans's numbers such that Lamont is still likely get a majority of votes in the November elections?

  2. "Also, has anyone figured out how many Reeps voted in that primary, which would have inflated Liebermans's numbers such that Lamont is still likely get a majority of votes in the November elections?"
    Connecticut has a closed primary, however apparently about 20,000 new registrants voted. Now, you could claim that these were Republican crossovers casting a primary vote when they'll return to the Republican in the final election, but few people will cross over casually when it means officially changing allegiance for the long term. Odds are, most of them were antiwar independents motivated to finally register with one side so as to vote against Lieberman.
    Which means that the most motivated anti-Lieberman independents have already voted for Lamont. All in all, and the new Rasmussen poll that has Lieberman leading 46-41-6 supports this, the voting for Lamont in the primary is probably close to his ceiling of support, while Lieberman has a lot of potential headroom in the independent and Republican groups. What happens in the campaign (not to mention the world) could certainly change all that, but at the moment, it looks likely that Lieberman will indeed win.

  3. I'd argue precisely the opposite of Mike G: Lieberman has nowhere to go but down. He has higher name ID, and he has run a terrible campaign thus far. Lieberman will drop if the GOP candidate improves, and with a single digit level of support it wouldn't be hard for the Republican to rise. Republicans may find Lieberman to be a convenient club to use against the Dems, but they actually might try to get a candidate in the race who could win.
    A lot of Democratic politicians are holding their fire while trying to persuade Joe to drop behind the scenes; again, this won't last forever. A few days campaigning with popular Dems like Bill Clinton and Al Gore – remember, this is Connecticut – and Lamont will cement the Democratic vote.
    And did I mention the terrible campaign? Lieberman blew a 40 point lead to lose the primary. There is nothing since the primary to indicate that Joe will do better in the general race.

  4. Certainly possible, Marc– hence my last sentence. But Lamont, the inexperienced unknown quantity, certainly stands an equal chance of getting either radically better or radically worse. I think Lieberman, freed of having to please the people nipping at his heels, and given a real scare, will likely improve, modestly. At the moment, that could be enough to ensure a win. The real question is how Lamont will perform– that is most likely to decide the race, whether people come to see Lamont as a plausible senator and get more comfortable with him, or whether they see him as another hapless zillionaire trying to start at the top. (Hey, Arianna Huffington should know about those!) The Republican is likely to stay irrelevant, though I agree 6 percent is so small it seems like it must improve. It'll be interesting to see and may well be a Lieberman-Lamont squeaker a second time….

  5. Mike G.,
    You're not wrong, but you're still guessing. My original point in response to Mark's post is that ignoring blacks in the poorer sections of town is the only way to make the conclusion that the vote for Lamont was "upscale" socially or economically. If even 3 per cent of the Lieberman voters in the primary were Republicans, then the poll showing a 10 point lead for Lamont in the Democratic Party was almost spot on.
    As for the first post-election Rasmussen poll, my sense is, as with any primary, the activists know the candidate, but the rest of the folks are still wondering "Who IS that guy (Lamont)?" One sees this even after national presidential primaries. Also, the Rasmussen poll doesn't tell us who voted for Lamont or Lieberman in the primary.
    The glass for Lamont is half full as Lieberman's negatives will more likely grow. I'll predict Lamont wins outright in November. Just a guess, though, too!

  6. I think Lamont will win handily. What seems to be forgotten in these analyses is that Lieberman was The Incumbent, and got a lot of votes from 'regular Democrats' for that reason, Democrats who will swith to Lamont because he is The Nominee. Others who might have supported Lieberman will be turned off by his refusal to abide by the vote. And there will be a hard core of Republicans who won't vote for a Democrat, as Lieberman technically is, no matter how ideologically close he is to them.

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