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"Lamont not Lament"

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Message Jayne Stahl
About the only news that could be bigger than Ned Lamont's surprise upset over Connecticut incumbent, Joe Lieberman, in the Senate primary last night would be the revelation that someone figured out a way to clone Fidel Castro. Still, while many covering the blog belt aren't amazed by this win for progressive Democrats, others are skeptical not just about whether or not Lieberman will run as an Independent, but just what, if any, overall impact this come from behind win will have in the presidential race of 2008.

Without a doubt, it's reassuring to see Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and John Edwards all vying for first shot at photo op with the new contender for U.S. Senate, but it would be even more comforting if we heard the four, or five, most likely to run for president, in two years, line up behind the antiwar platform that turned a virtual unknown into a virtuouso player.

Moreover, among the big surprises of last night is not that Joe Lieberman didn't go gently into that night, vowing to run as an Independent, but that his decision to switch party affiliations was not challenged even by members of the Independent party. Is there not a platform, and does Lieberman reflect Independent party line, or can one merely switch back and forth from Democrat to Republican to Independent depending on political expediency and opportunity?

What is less obvious, and what the Democrats need to consider if victory in the most important midterm election, less than three months away, and the presidential election, two years away, is how to come up with a platform that doesn't readilly succumb to the politics of bait and switch, and actually has a distinctive, and discernible world view. How can anyone take a presidential, or any other election seriously when a prominent senator, with more than 30 years of experience under his belt, can morph so comfortably into the skin of another party without anyone even raising so much as an agnostic eyebrow.

When differences in party platforms break down such that a race becomes one of personality over principle, something is rotten in the body politic, and if we want leaders, not poseurs, we can't afford to overlook that. When candidacy is about opportunism and not opportunity, and ideas are pushed back stage, there is no way to avoid another Supreme Court appointment to the Oval Office. By now, it must be hugely apparent if representational government is to survive beyond the next two years, it's time to sharpen not merely pencils, but talking points, or we're guaranteed to see more lament, and less Lamont, come November.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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