Independent News and Views September 18, 2000
Features The Trouble With Al - By David Moberg L.A. Confidential - By Bob Burnett From Seattle to South Central - By Juan Gonzalez A Field Day for the Heat - By Jeffrey St. Clair Throwing Away the Key - By Dave Lindorff Blinded with Science - By Karen Charman
News Prague Fall - By Nick Rosen The Highest Price - By Anthony Arnove - By Dave Lindorff Appall-o-Meter - By David Futrelle
Views Editorial - By Salim Muwakkil Dialogue: Candidate Nader - By Doug Ireland and Joel Bleifuss A Terry LaBan Cartoon - By Terry LaBan
Culture Dancing in the Suites - By J.W. Mason Things Fall Apart - By Hillary Frey Homage to Gorazde - By Daniel F. Raeburn
Say It Ain't So, Joe. - By Salim Muwakkil


  By choosing Joseph Lieberman as his running mate, Al Gore explicitly rejected the argument that the Democrats' future lies in energizing those currently in the political margins. Instead, the Gore forces are making overwrought appeals to swing voters who occupy the hallowed ground of the imaginary middle.

   Some strategists argue that the way to win in November is to push bold policies that energize the apathetic majority. But the cautious tacticians managing Gore's run are loathe to wander too far from conventional wisdom. And the selection of Lieberman is conventional wisdom personified. The two-term Connecticut senator is the first Jewish candidate nominated for a major party ticket, and that's an admirable development. What makes him truly attractive to party leaders, however, is the way he publicly chastised President Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky embarrassment. His celebrated rebuke will serve to deflect Republican intimations that the Dems are spiritless socialists at heart, while shielding Gore from GOP charges that he deserves to share Clinton's shame. All the while, Gore can take the credit for courageously choosing a Jewish running mate.

   Yet selecting Lieberman also is beating a dead horse. The Republicans clearly had decided that the impeachment episode was a political liability when they banished all politicians with any connection to that partisan lynch mob from the convention podium. By naming Lieberman, the Democrats lend credence to an angle of attack already abandoned by the GOP.

  The sanctimonious Connecticut senator also is something of a culture warrior, who has joined forces with public scold William Bennett to launch rhetorical broadsides on the entertainment industry. Surely the pop culture industry deserves serious critique, and Lieberman's outrage sometimes echoes that of many progressives. But the tone of his indictments, and his choice of allies, encourages the kind of censorious attitudes common to right-wingers everywhere.

   His divine name-dropping - Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times that Lieberman said God 13 times in 90 seconds during a speech in Nashville - may have been calculated to demonstrate that his Supreme Being was the very same deity that Christians hold near and dear. But it also furthered the fudging of secular and sacred that is becoming all too common in our public discourse. Shouldn't we be troubled by this trend? Separation of church and state is not just an abstract notion; it's a necessary safeguard in a society that harbors a wide variety of belief systems. One of the most insistent lessons of history is how easily violent social divisions are fueled by religious antagonisms.

  But most troubling is Lieberman's role, along with Clinton and Gore, in founding the Democratic Leadership Council. Created specifically to fashion New Democrats out of old (read: liberal) ones, the DLC has emerged as the party's vanguard. Their chief argument is that old Democrats were at odds with he new realities of post-industrial America and tended to alienate coveted swing voters. The eight-year reign of their most celebrated alum might seem to validate that notion. Indeed, the economic boom together with declining crime, unemployment and teenage pregnancy lend credence to the claims that New Democratic policies work.

   But there is much in this country that is not working: an incarceration epidemic, an insane drug war, corporate domination, a growing economic divide, homelessness, child poverty, a health care crisis, environmental degradation, and so forth. Discussion of those issues was left to the "Shadow Conventions," organized in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles by conservative-turned-liberal columnist Arianna Huffington and religious leader Jim Wallis, among others. Thousands also protested in the streets of the two cities, demanding that those issues be addressed. Although the corporate media has paid scant attention to those voices of dissent, they are growing louder and more insistent. The choice of Lieberman as veep will do little to still them.

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