I don't see myself as an issues Democrat, but as a principles Democrat.
Principles are like general rules without specifics, so they are necessarily devoid of issues.
I don't think there's anything wrong with being an issues Democrat, but it's just not what I see as the core of the current Progressive movement.
Here's what I mean: If you took 100 Lamont supporters aside and asked them what his positions are on the issues--very few could answer. But if you took them aside and said, 'Why are you supporting Lamont?' they will talk to you about principles: honesty, standing up to immoral policies, listening to voters, etc.
I think when we talk as 'issues Democrats,' we close the door on people. When we talk principles--the door swings wide open.
We don't need to negotiate principles. We just need to figure out how to express them.
(more after the fold...)
Ned Lamont is not the first new Progressive candidate based on principles rather than issues. Paul Hackett was probably the first. But Lamont has been the most vivid, the most inspiring, and the most successful.
And DC--the Democratic establishment--still doesn't get it.
The voters of Connecticut get it. We get it. But DC doesn't. And it is important that we be able to articulate ourselves clearly as the movement grows.
Take a look at this article from the Norwich Bulletin that endorses Lieberman over Lamont. I want everyone to pay special attention to how this author defines this race as about issues, not principles. To this journalist, 'principle' is just a style of campaigning, not the motivation or basis for the people of Connecticut to vote a Senator out of office:
Our view: Let's keep Lieberman
By now, all of us, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman included, have "gotten the message:" A significant number of Connecticut Democrats, led by Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, are fed up with the Iraq War and want our troops out now.
That's a principled and sincere stand, but it is not reason enough to jettison an 18-year veteran of the Senate, one who sits on the Armed Services Committee and who works well with both sides of the aisle.
The Norwich Bulletin supports U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
This article is not uncivil to Lamont. It is very polite, if not a bit simplistic. But notice that to this journalist, what is really happening between Ned Lamont, the voters of Connecticut and Progressive Democratic activists and citizens across this country--notice that this is completely lost. That is to say: this journalist does not understand, doesn't 'get it.'
What doesn't he or she get? Principles. They don't get that the race is about principles.
The argument in the paper is that the support for Lamont is about 'an issue' (e.g., Iraq), the message about 'the issue' has been received, and Joe Lieberman should remain in office on the basis of his positions on other 'issues' and his long time support of those 'issues' (e.g., his 18 years of experience).
This has been a 'principalled' race by Lamont, they argue. Principal is just a style of presenting 'issues.'
This is so far from what is happening in Connecticut and in the country that I am amazed--although not surprised--this article went to press.
About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people -- a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment.
The basis of our American form of government is not 'issues.' It is principles. And among them--among the most important is the honest and fair representation of the people. The core principle of government in America is that our leaders rule not for, not with, not instead of--but at the election of the people. Lincoln restated this some years later using the word 'people' over and over again, but Jefferson makes the point clearer.
The basis for holding office, in other words, is being true to the 'constellation' of principles on which our nation was founded--on which we fought wars, died by the thousands, and are willing to step up and defend forever.
For reasons that I cannot fully explain, at some point Joe Leiberman forgot this. He became, over the course of his 18 years in office, not a representative of the people and a defender of American principles--but sommething that I would call an 'expert' on various areas of governing. As a result of holding office for a long time, Lieberman began to think of himself as an expert whose decisions mattered more than the views of his of his constituents. And when he became that kind of elected official, he abandoned the constellation of principles that Jefferson named so long ago.
Now, when the President came to Joe Leiberman and asked him for support in a war against Iraq, Joe Lieberman had already abandoned those principles that he had been asked to uphold--or he abandoned them in the process of that request from the President. We know this because his state was saying, 'No war in Iraq,' but Joe Lieberman said in return, I hear what you are saying, but I believe based on what I know that war in Iraq is the right thing. He abandoned the principle of representing the people on which this country is based. And for that reason, he fell out of favor with Connecticut and Democrats in the country.
Ned Lamont, to his great credit, was able to see that Lieberman had abandoned the principles that served as the basis of his having been elected. And so Lamont ran a campaign to restore those principles: representation, honesty, listening to your constituents--the principles of our system of government above any personal belief in one's own expertise or incumbency.
This is what the Lamont campaign is about. And Lamont is winning because the principles that Jefferson first spoke about over 200 years ago, and which Lieberman abandoned and Lamont embraced--these principles are not just written on some piece of paper kept behind glass in a stuffy archive in Washington, DC. They are in the heart and soul of every Democrat in this country--and a fair number of Republicans, too.