The Lessons of Today's Stunning Lieberman Poll

Craven politicians like Lieberman will do anything they can to confuse the public about their positions on the war -- and they can succeed if the major media refuses to ask them questions or consistently highlight their hypocrisy.
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According to a new poll released today by the nonpartisan firm Research 2000, if Connecticut's 2006 Senate general election was re-run and happened today, Ned Lamont would defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman handily. What is of particular significance in the numbers is that the shift is due precisely to the deception that Lamont supporters had been exposing during the campaign - but which reporters refused to cover both during the race and in the post-election analysis. This deception on the issue of Iraq goes straight to how the media and political Establishment will do anything to keep this war going. And the two lessons that come out of this poll after looking at its details are worth remembering.

As the poll shows, if the race were held today, Lamont would garner 48 percent of the vote, Lieberman just 40 percent and Republican Alan Schlesinger would get 10 percent. This represents roughly a 16-18 point swing from the actual results (Lieberman 49, Lamont 40, Schlesinger 10), and according to today's poll, the major shift to Lamont from Lieberman would be among Democratic and Independent voters.

You may recall that in a post-election analysis I wrote for In These Times, I noted that Lieberman's entire general election strategy was about pretending that, if reelected, he would lead the fight to end the Iraq War. The man literally portrayed himself as the leader of the antiwar movement after he lost the primary. His very first ad in the general election was him looking to camera saying "I want to help end the war in Iraq." During debates he said "No one wants to end the war in Iraq more than I do." It was, as this well-known YouTube video showed, a positively Nixonian enterprise by Lieberman - and it was a deliberate effort to confuse precisely the same Democratic and Independent voters who now say they would vote for Lamont. As I reported:

"Our internal polling showed that somewhere between 12 and 15 percent of the population said they simultaneously opposed the war and supported Lieberman's position on the war-a signal that Lieberman's confusion campaign was working."

During the campaign, we did all that we could to point out how Lieberman was lying about his position on the war through as many venues as possible - blogs, candidate speeches, and television advertising making the point that "a vote for Lieberman means a vote for more war" (an ad that Lieberman actually held a special press conference to attack for supposedly being not true). But in the general election's stretch run, the independent validators in the race - the local and national media - refused to report on Lieberman's actual positions and votes continuing to support Bush and the war, and this key slice of Democratic and Independent voters remained confused. They voted for Lieberman because they believed that he perhaps had been pro-war before, but had changed - when in fact the only thing that had changed temporarily was his language, but not his actions.

But now this key group of Democrats and Independents isn't confused anymore because, since the election (and, as predicted) Lieberman has become even more supportive of the Iraq War, and is actually publicly pushing a war with Iran. You can't turn on a television and see a story about the political debate over war without seeing/hearing/reading about Lieberman ratcheting up the saber rattling.

There are two major lessons from this, beyond the fact that as politicians become more supportive of President Bush's war in Iraq and more supportive of a war in Iran, the more unpopular they become.

First, craven politicians like Lieberman will do anything they can to confuse the public about their positions on the war - and they can succeed if the major media refuses to ask them questions or consistently highlight their hypocrisy. Especially on Iraq, we know that deference and stenography are now standard operating procedure. Remember, it was New York Times' chief White House correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller who said that when it comes to the war, journalists are "very deferential's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there" and ask politicians tough questions. And you can bet the effort to confuse the public is only going to intensify from both political parties in the coming weeks with the debate over the Iraq War in Congress. We are already seeing politicians trying to pretend that non-binding measures that do nothing to end the war are actually ironclad efforts that will end the war.

Second, this poll should remind us why new and alternative media are so important. We have to continue to develop as many communications resources to get the real story out about all politicians of all parties - Republican, Democrat and Connecticut for Lieberman. We need as many communications tools as possible so that we don't always have to rely on media intermediaries to get the truth out. We need conduits that circumvent those intermediaries to get the truth out - directly (The fact that Markos had to commission this poll in absence of any news organization doing it is just another reminder of why we need said conduits - and thanks for doing it Markos!).

Had Connecticut voters had more information about exactly how Lieberman's campaign to reinvent himself as an antiwar leader was a complete sham, that key segment of the Democratic and Independent voters might not have been confused, and the election - as the poll now confirms - would have gone the other way.

Cross-posted from Working Assets and OpenLeft

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