by Peter Freyne
Yours truly counted 157 folks attending Friday evening's Democracy for America fundraiser at Burlington's Union Station. Where once-upon-a-time people actually waited for trains, the politically aware gather for wine, cheese and repartee. The main attraction was the Connecticut Yankee in King George’s Court - U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont.
Mr. Lamont’s the guy who upset incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in the August 8 Democratic Primary. The big issue?
King George and his War in Iraq.
Vermont-wise, Leahy, Jeffords and Sanders opposed the Bush war from the get-go, and at a moment when courage appeared in very short supply in Congress, they all voted against giving Bush the green light, making Vermont the only state whose entire congressional delegation did the right thing.
In Connecticut, Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s running-mate in 2000, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the King, even got a kiss on the cheek for his loyalty.
Some folks of Connecticut said enough is enough.
Ned Lamont is 52. Raised in Syosset, New York, on Long Island’s North Shore. Has degrees from Harvard and Yale and owns Lamont Digital Systems in Greenwich.
Lamont’s upset victory was fueled by online support from national activist organizations like MoveOn.org and DFA, which was born as Dean for America and is currently headed by Ho-Ho’s little brother Jimmy (who by the way did an outstanding job on Meet the Press two weeks ago going head-to-head with Lieberman-defender Lanny Davis).
Lieberman, as everyone knows, is now running as an independent. In fact, he’s leading Lamont 53-41 in a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday. You've got to see Joe's post-primary online statement. Who says Hollywood gets the best actors?
No need for panic. Joe was leading Ned 51-27 in a July 20 poll.
Lamont had the sparkle Friday night at Burlington’s Union Station. Told his story. How Lieberman’s lockstep support for Bush on the War in Iraq sickened him. And how Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha, a Marine captain who picked up two Purple Hearts in the Vietnam War, inspired him when he courageously switched from hawk to dove last November.
When he went to see key Connecticut pols about finding somebody to challenge Big Joe from the left, Lamont said he was told, “Ah, we don't like primaries. He's a three-term incumbent. They got all these millions of dollars. It can't be done. If you feel so strongly about it, you do it!”
“So I said, ‘Maybe I will.’”
The rest is history. He decided to get in the race. And then one day he decided to go to a local DFA meeting at a diner in Norwalk.
Turns out 125 Deaniacs showed and the response helped make Ned Lamont a household word and established Vermont-based Democracy for America as a key new player in the brave new world of American politics. Said Lamont last night:
We had tens of thousands of Democrats register in the last couple months right before the primary. They’d had 18 years to register for Joe Lieberman.
I think they were registering because they wanted a change. We gave them something to believe in. It's hope and it's positive and I mean to do that.
Hope sure is a nice thing. It’s absence has been everywhere as recent polling has shown. Never in my lifetime have so few felt the country is heading in the right direction, just 26 percent in an Aug. 10-11 Newsweek poll.
Why should they?
One other Lamont line caught our ear at Union Station last night as he described his transformation from inexperienced political unknown to Democratic Party U.S. Senate nominee:
And there were these things called blogs. I didn't really know that much about blogs, but I do now.
Hey, Ned, don’t we all?