Citizen Power

Joe Trippi

Joe Trippi
Senator Joe Lieberman had it all: powerful endorsements from the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the backing of most of the rest of the American Democratic establishment, a huge campaign war chest, and all the other trappings of incumbency. Yet yesterday voters in the state of Connecticut's Democratic primary sent the former vice-presidential nominee packing after an unprecedented internet-driven campaign.

"This shows what blind loyalty to George Bush and being his love child means." That reaction to Lieberman's defeat was not coined by a progressive blogger on the internet, but instead leaped from the lips of congressman Rahm Emmanuel - the man charged with winning back Congress for the Democrats this fall.

Ned Lamont, the man who defeated Lieberman, started his campaign just a few months ago as a complete unknown. His candidacy was embraced by internet activists and bloggers who brought much-needed early publicity to his cause with their 'net roots' campaign - and ultimately helped bring his political struggle  to the national attention.

Volunteers began to go to work in Connecticut. People were getting involved in a new kind of politics: one that included them. Astonishingly, as Lamont's candidacy grew, so did the voter rolls; over 30,000 people registered as new Democrats so they could vote in the party primary. Lamont's message of change, combined with the rising tide of this new people-powered politics, took Lieberman's strengths - incumbency, endorsements, and money - and turned them against him. The status quo became the albatross he carried to defeat - while the rest of incumbent Washington watched.

Rahm Emmanuel was correct: many incumbents who blindly supported George Bush will find their careers in peril come November. But there is another, far more important implication to Tuesday's results. The rules have changed. The power center of American politics is shifting back towards the people.

How it is fueled - by technology, by candidates like Ned Lamont, by a growing community of citizenship, or by a combination of all of these - does not matter. The rise in people-powered politics, which began in the 2004 presidential campaign, continues to gather steam.

It is something that endorsements and money cannot control, and if that makes incumbents who count on such things uncomfortable - good. Democracy and the nation will be better for it. May the people win.