Members from both of our major political parties have spent days regaling the late Senator John McCain’s willingness, throughout his congressional career, to “reach across the aisle”.
Democrats, especially some of the most partisan ones, have been particularly lavish in their praise. We can assume, given lots of the “GOP Maverick’s” non-conforming departures landed him firmly the Dem camp, much of that appreciation was genuinely heartfelt.
But many of those sanctimonious pols heaping adulation on McCain’s bipartisan approach, while calling for more to follow in his footsteps, were part of the cabal that purged their own McCain-like senator, Joe Lieberman from the Democrat Party.
Leiberman, representing the deep blue state of Connecticut, was as a fellow so in tune with his Republican colleague from Arizona that John was seriously considering asking Joe to run as his Vice President in 2008.
It wouldn’t have been his first time running for the number two spot on a presidential ticket. Lieberman, then a highly regarded senator sitting for two full terms, was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000.
Yet, a short 6 years later, after having been previously elected by 64% of the vote, he was defeated in the Democrat primary by Ned Lamont. He decided to run as an independent. Hillary Clinton supported Lamont while then Democrat heavyweight Howard Dean called on Joe to quit the race, claiming he was “being disrespectful of Democrats and disrespectful of the Democrat Party.”
In the kind of nonconformist style that his fellow Dems found so incredibly laudable in McCain, Lieberman’s bid for reelection found big-name support from “the other side”. GOP stalwarts such as Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani joined some honorable Democrats, and he won by 10 points.
It was his last campaign. Joe Lieberman, principled Democrat Maverick, left the Senate after having served 4 consequential, scandal-free terms. But unlike his bipartisan brother-in-arms, John McCain, there were no Dem tears shed over Joe’s loss.
Lieberman’s courageous willingness to find common ground with Republicans on critical issues was more than leading Democrats could take. He went from VP nominee to persona non grata, to pariah. Joe Lieberman was purged from the “Big Tent Party” and many of today’s chest clutching Democrats, calling for the kind of civility he faithfully provided, couldn’t wait to get rid of him.