District 54: A Mini Connecticut? Or, Connecticut: District 54 Writ Large?

One of the many benefits to cycling is that it gives you time to think. Not on all rides; some of them require all your attention, or are filled with too much pain for rational thought. But rides like last night’s are perfect for reflection. After that storm blew through, the weather was as good as it gets during August in Alabama. The pace was steady, the goal being miles and not speed. The route was so well known that I could almost do it blindfolded. In short, my mind was free to wander.

So I got to thinking about Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont, Gaynell Hendricks and Patricia Todd. My conclusion: These two contests had a lot in common.

Each featured a candidate who should have been a lock. Lieberman was the incumbent in a senatorial primary. Outside of a typical SEC team in its opening game, you won’t find more heavily favored contestant. While Hendricks was new, so was her opponent, and Hendricks had the support of all the local political machines and their parts. These two were as old school, traditional, and entrenched as you are gonna find.

Yet they each lost the election. And each lost because some previously discounted group organized and attacked. Against Lieberman it was the blogofascists/nutroots/kossacks. Hendricks faced the wrath of Whitey. Some new group said, “hey, you are not dealing with today’s problems. You may have been right years ago, but times changed, and you have not.”

And each of them can blame only themselves for the attack. They each made deals with the devil, and stuck to their outdated ways.

Rather than try to appeal to all the voters in the district, Hendricks followed some really bad advice and invoked race. She also offered thinly disguised attacks on Todd’s sexual preferences.

As for Lieberman, like Denethor and Saruman, he thought he could compromise with his party’s opposition. What everyone but him realized long ago, though, was that what that meant in practice is he adopts Republican positions, while being powerless to advance those of his own party. Compromise with Republicans, like compromise with Sauron, is give with no take. So the net result is Republican domination. Thats great if you are a Republican, not so much if you, like Lieberman, are a Democrat. Besides, there is nothing virtuous about compromise for the sake of compromise. Especially when to do so requires adoption of a policy – e.g. the war in Iraq – that is flat out wrong. Sadly, and again like Denethor, his madness has not only ruined him, but in it he is determined to destroy his own people. By running as an independent, he will split the Democratic vote and hand the election to the Republicans.

So what does any of this mean? I don’t know, I’m a lawyer, not a political adviser. I do know it makes me hopeful that these two races are predictive. That they mean more officials will be looking at reality and dealing with it. That they will confront today’s issues with reason and good sense, rather than attacking bogeymen. That they will try to find the right answer, rather than trying to find the Republican answer, or the Democrat answer, or the Moderate answer, or the Conservative answer, or the Liberal answer. That they can offer some wisdom instead of stupid catch phrases and meaningless rhetoric. That there are a lot of people out there who want real leadership, rather than this kind of crap from their candidates.

As I see it, in each of these races, the contestant who relied on the standardized words and strategies of yesteryear lost. The candidate who tried to deal rationally with today’s issues won. May that be the case more often.   

Explore posts in the same categories: Alabama Legislature, Birmingham, National Politics

8 Comments on “District 54: A Mini Connecticut? Or, Connecticut: District 54 Writ Large?”

  1. MCF Says:

    Thought-provoking post, but may I respectfully disagree with one point? I don’t think Lieberman’s Iraq War vote can be fairly characterized as “compromise for the sake of compromise.” By all accounts, Lieberman is a genuinely convicted hawk when it comes to the GWOT, and he’s always been very pro-Israel. There may be some issues on which Lieberman has sought middle ground with Republicans for the sake of “unity” (a la McCain), but I don’t think Iraq is one of them. Just my two cents.

  2. I could not agree more!

  3. Wheeler Says:


    good point.

    ms. Todd,

    i’m lookiing forward to calling you rep. todd.

  4. Dan Says:

    Great post, Wheeler. By the way, when did you start cross-posting at Politics in Alabama?

  5. MCF Says:

    Congrats, Ms. Todd.

  6. wheeler Says:


    jeff and i talked about it a couple of months back, but i only started posting two weeks ago.

  7. Jen Says:

    I agree – great post. One thing, though, you may want to have Jeff fix the link back to your blog. On the Politics in Alabama blog, your name (which is supposed to link back here), goes off into internet heaven. Keep up the thought-provoking posts 🙂

  8. Dystopos Says:

    In the primary I voted for Hendricks because I was a fan of her business, her husband’s loft building, and his attitude about downtown. I was convinced to change my vote in the runoff not because of Hendrick’s campaign tactics, but because I learned more about their relative degree of participation in the various civic and non-profit groups on whose boards they serve. I think the voters in our district were very lucky to have a strong slate of candidates and two good choices in the runoff. I’m surprised to hear analysts try to deconstruct this race as being bitter and acrimonious. That may have been the view from inside the campaign, but all the voters I spoke with were seemingly unaffected by campaign tactics and were judging the candidates as people.

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