Senator Tom Carper D-DE is starting to earn the wrath of the netroots. An article in The Hill details the growing dismay within the Democratic Senate caucus over Lieberman’s rhetoric.
A group of Senate Democrats is growing increasingly angry about Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (D-Conn.) campaign tactics since he lost the Democratic primary last week.
If he continues to alienate his colleagues, Lieberman could be stripped of his seniority within the Democratic caucus should he defeat Democrat Ned Lamont in the general election this November, according to some senior Democratic aides…
…The issue of Lieberman’s seniority would arise most dramatically if Lieberman wins re-election and Democrats recapture control of the chamber. That would slot Lieberman to take over as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the panel primarily responsible for investigating the executive branch.
Obviously, the last thing we need is Joseph Lieberman chairing the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs committee. If he is stripped of seniority, the job will fall to Carl Levin (Armed Services) and then to Daniel Akaka (Veteran’s Affairs). Neither of them will want the position. Next in line is Tom Carper. If Carper were in the business of self-promotion, he would push for Lieberman to be stripped of seniority and thereby capture a fairly high profile chair. But, he’s not. Far from it.
Ironically, a lawmaker with a good shot of replacing Lieberman atop the Governmental Affairs panel, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), is spearheading the effort within the Senate to preserve Democratic support for Lieberman. Carper is the third most senior Democrat on the panel after Lieberman. But the two Democrats who outrank him, Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.) and Daniel Akaka (Hawaii) are likely to keep their perches as the most senior Democrats on the Armed Services Committee and Veterans Affairs Committee, respectively.
Carper’s chief of staff, Jonathan Jones, has contacted Democratic aides recently and urged them that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee should not spend money in the race between Lieberman and Lamont, said two Democratic aides familiar with the conversations. Jones said the money would be better spent elsewhere since the seat will remain in Democratic hands, said the sources.
Carper, who like Lieberman often works across the aisle with Republicans, is one of a handful of Democratic centrists who have continued to support Lieberman since his primary defeat. The others include Sen. Ken Salazar (Colo.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).
So, who is Tom Carper? For starters, he is the vice-chair of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) where is in charge of developing DLC policies. Carper has been an extremely successful politician, winning a record 11 elections in Delaware. He has been Treasurer, Representative, Governor, and Senator. Carper was elected to the Senate in 2000 and is up for re-election. He faces little competition.
In 2000, Carper refused to cooperate with Project Vote Smart and fill out the National Political Awareness Test. We can figure out why by examining his voting record.
2005 Senator Carper supported the interests of the NARAL Pro-Choice America 75 percent in 2005.
2004 Senator Carper supported the interests of the NARAL Pro-Choice America 20 percent in 2004.
2003-2004 Senator Carper supported the interests of the National Right to Life Committee 45 percent in 2003-2004.
2003-2004 Senator Carper supported the interests of the Democrats for Life of America 60 percent in 2003-2004.
2003 Senator Carper supported the interests of the NARAL Pro-Choice America 50 percent in 2003.
2003-2004 Senator Carper supported the interests of the American Civil Liberties Union 56 percent in 2003-2004.
2001-2002 On the votes that the American Civil Liberties Union considered to be the most important in 2001-2002 , Senator Carper voted their preferred position 40 percent of the time.
On women’s issues and civil liberties, Carper is a lukewarm supporter. You can see his whole record here. He’s been a reliable vote on environmental and education issues. The rest of his record is mixed. Carper has a reputation for working well across the aisle. He is currently teaming up with Senator Bennett of Utah to pass a consumer information protection bill.
I don’t have a problem with Carper’s style of politics. I admire his ability and willingness to work within a Republican dominated Congress to get things done for his constituents and the nation. What I have a problem with is his political philosophy (he is the policy wonk of the DLC) and his seeming indifference to Joe Lieberman’s antics.
“I think there’s a lot of concern,” said a senior Democratic aide who has discussed the subject with colleagues. “I think the first step is if the Lieberman thing turns into a side show and hurts our message and ability to take back the Senate, and the White House and the [National Republican Senatorial Committee] manipulate him, there are going to be a lot of unhappy people in our caucus.”…
…Lieberman’s tone and message has shocked a lot of people,” said a second senior Democratic aide who has discussed the issue with other Senate Democrats. “He’s way off message for us and right in line with the White House.”
“At this point Lieberman cannot expect to just keep his seniority,” said the aide. “He can’t run against a Democrat and expect to waltz back to the caucus with the same seniority as before. It would give the view that the Senate is a country club rather than representative of a political party and political movement.”
The problem I have with Carper is that he is not supporting Lieberman out of any longstanding personal friendship, nor because he hails from a deep red state. He is supporting Lieberman because he agrees with Lieberman on many issues. They are DLC brothers-in-arms. Carper went so far as to campaign for Lieberman’s farcical Presidential run in 2004.
To party centrists like Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who cut radio ads endorsing Lieberman in 2004, the attacks on Lieberman are part of a larger effort to push the party to the left, which could threaten any chances Democratic candidates have of recapturing majorities in the Senate and House in November, or the White House in 2008.
“I don’t agree with Joe Lieberman on the conduct of operations in Iraq,” Carper said. “But he’s right on a lot of other issues, from the environment to civil rights, and we as Democrats need to show that we’re big enough to have differences but can still welcome a Joe Lieberman.”
Before the primary, Carper spewed Rovian talking points:
“This is a race that is being closely watched around the country,” Carper said. “If we can’t support a Joe Lieberman, who has broad support among moderates, it could hurt us in winning back some red [Republican] states.”
It should be noted that the turnout numbers in the Connecticut primary were record breaking and the rolls of registered Democrats swelled by tens of thousands. This was the theory of the progressive wing of the party all along, and has been opposed by business friendly Democrats like Carper. What was the theory?
The theory was that the Democratic brand was losing appeal for lack of clarity and contrast. The theory was that increased populism and partisanship would bring voters back to the Democratic Party. And the theory was that contested primaries are good for the party in spite of their expense, because they increase interest, hone the candidates’ skills and energize the base.
Carper not only regretted the primary challenge of Lamont, but endorsed Lieberman, continues to endorse Lieberman, is echoing right-wing talking points, and is discouraging Schumer from spending money on Lamont.
It sounds to me like we need to find a primary challenger for Carper. We have six years to identify a candidate and lead them to victory. We do not need DLC pro-Lieberman candidates in reliably blue states.
Carper isn’t a bad man and he is not a bad Senator. He’s just a corporate Democrat who steps on the Democratic message and screws up our branding. And if he is against the war, he should act like it matters a little if you are for it.