Lamont Tapped To “Take It Back”

by Tess Wheelwright | June 22, 2006 9:30 AM | | Comments (4)

The last time New Haven saw Ned Lamont, he was rousing a ballroom of blogheads at the Omni Hotel. In the much quieter setting of a Chapel Street bookstore Wednesday, the candidate for U.S. Senate joined author David Sirota in an effort to take back the word “mainstream” from incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman.

At 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, the Democratic challenger to Lieberman staked out a spot in the children’s section of downtown’s Atticus Bookstore & Café to hear from political strategist David Sirota (pictured below). Sirota, also a regular contributor to The Nation and a twice-a-week guest on The Al Franken Show, is the author of Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government — And How We Can Take It Back.

That’s not, he told the gathered dozens of Ned fans and Atticus regulars, going to be easy.

The really worrisome corruption isn’t Tom DeLay or the $90,000 in a congressman’s freezer, Sirota said: It’s the mighty, mighty corporations whom our leaders can’t afford to displease. “What’s really corrupt is what’s legal. If we’re wondering why our government no longer solves problems, it’s because it no longer challenges the Big Money interests at the root of those problems.” Sirota gave examples — like Bush’s 2005 “bankruptcy bill” which protects billionaire corporations but not the truly bankruptcy-prone individual with a health problem or death in the family, Sirota said (a Daily Kos blogger agrees), or the tort reform pushed by Republicans to “save the system the cost of frivolous lawsuits” — aka “limit the legal rights of individuals to fight back in court,” said Sirota. He gives more examples on his “Sirotablog”, and more in his book.

But the examples that really interested the Nedheads were the ones that starred Sen. Joe Lieberman as a favorite bedfellow of Big Money. “There’s lots about Lieberman in here,” said Sirota, raising his book (as Ned, who hadn’t yet read it, raised his eyebrows). Lieberman is a special target of Sirotafire for his self-billed “centrism,” his publicized identity as an able consensus-builder with Republicans. For Sirota, a cooperator with the current “corrupt administration” isn’t a “centrist,” but a strategic “hijacker” of that label. “Lieberman decides to be part of a consensus in Washington that pushes the hostile takeover of our government.”

Sirota billed Ned Lamont’s campaign as a strike back — and a timely one. The clock is ticking for the ‘Take It Back’ piece of his vision, Sirota said. “In ten years, [my book] would be called just Hostile Takeover : How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government—Thank you very much.”

Wednesday, Sirota was still able to offer a few recommendations — if not the “silver bullet people want.” “We need to put public financing of elections at the center of our political activism,” he said, crediting Connecticut as ahead of the curve. “We need to focus that political activism locally in our backyard,” added Sirota, who diagnosed the “hostile takeover in government” as “far less pronounced if you take it down the food chain.”

That led to Ned. “What we’re seeing in this race is that ordinary citizens can have a real impact on the political destiny of this country. The fact that there is a race is a huge success. People are shocked and amazed that there is a race. People all over the country are watching this race.”

History Lesson

Lamont passed on making a stump speech in the Atticus kiddie-corner, but he did take time to offer a few words on history. Namely, that the Iraq war and the decisions of our current leaders do not fit with its lessons. “These choices are way outside the mainstream,” Lamont said.

He recalled World War II and the “conflict between liberation theology and containment.” “America went with containment. We didn’t say, We’re going to roll in there and liberate Czechoslovakia, liberate Poland.” Fast-forward to today’s war and the emphasis on “Iraqi freedom.” “This war is way outside the historical norm,” Lamont said.

And, as if to emphasize a reassignment of the “outsider” label, the grassroots and blog-launched candidate said it again. “It’s way outside the mainstream.”

“Half the time they accuse me of aiding and abetting the Republicans, and half the time I’m a ‘creature of the blogs.’ I’m probably somewhere in the middle.”

He didn’t say “centrist.” “This is a president with a bad set of priorities. Rather than spend $250 million in Iraq, we need to start investing in great schools for our kids,” in public housing and public transportation, in “putting in place a platform for small businesses. That is the historical tradition of this country.”

As Lamont took policy questions from the crowd — he supports a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, health care is a basic right, environmental responsibility and economic growth are not opposed — he reinforced how far he’s come toward comfort and confidence in the candidate’s seat. He made a joke. People laughed. He got serious. People listened.

“[Lieberman]’s too quick to say we’ve got to find the common ground. We’ve got to start talking about the common good.”

Lamont hadn’t heard about Jajuana Cole’s murder and the spate of youth violence upsetting New Haven — but he wanted to. “Tell me about it,” he said sincerely, though he looked sincerely tired after a long day on the campaign trail and with the Bridgeport high school students whom he teaches about small business entrepreneurship. Linking the shootings here to parallel “gang activity” in Stamford and Bridgeport, he stuck the blame to a lack of youth programs, a lack of “good investments in opportunities for youth.” “When school gets out at 2:45 in Bridgeport, most kids have nowhere to go but home to an empty house. The message is disheartening.” And by the way, “What happened to gun control?”

Afterward, Ned fled (to later return), Sirota sold books, and campaign staffers sold the connection between the book’s call and Ned’s answer. “David’s book helped define the driving issue of this campaign: The importance of a change agent being elected,” said campaign chief Tom Swan (pictured at left with Hostile Takeover and Sirota, right).

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Posted by: Mary | June 22, 2006 1:12 PM

Good info..but next time, please drop the snarky tone.

Posted by: steve talbert | June 22, 2006 6:11 PM

I didn't think the tone was snarky. The article seemed factual and casual. It was interesting, and I liked reading it. I think the quotes around things are not meant to be sarcastic, but to represent actual comments from people.

Posted by: cv | June 23, 2006 1:07 PM

To finish Sirota's point about "...People all over the country are watching this race.�
The national Democratic party will take it's cue from the CT primary this year. If Ned Lamont wins, particularly if he wins decisively, the rest of the Hillary Clinton-Raum Emmanuel-DLC (Corporate) crowd will see that their time is up if they don't stand up to the Thugs. If Lie berman prevails, the Dems will sink into the muck and we will have one party rule for the forseable future. It is crucial for the Democratic Party and for America that Lie berman be turned out of office for misrepresenting the people of Connecticut.
And it's not just the Occupation of Iraq that's at issue. I'm glad to see the "Bankruptcy Bill" brought up, It might be good for the Financial Industry Giants but it screws the rest of us. Of course, he voted for the Patriot Act, all but two Senators did, but Lie berman voted with the GOPigs to cut off debate (his vote breaking the filibuster) on the expansion of the Patriot Act in '05. Hapless Joe also supported the State barging in on Terry Schiavo's last days. He's proven that he is working against the best interests of Connecticut Citizens and he is emblematic of the rot in the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Gerald Pecdhenuk | June 23, 2006 10:01 PM

I concur heartily with above comments on the need to crush the DLC'ers and their fellow travellers. Earlier today, Friday afternoon here in Chicago, Illinois... Rahm Emanuel had a meet the Congressman type event which I attended at a local shopping center and it is clear he does not give two shits about the Democratic Party constituencies and the nation's economy. Something is rotten in that man's brain..... he just automatically shuts it off when any real discussion is provoked. Gerald Pechenuk

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