The Connecticut for Lieberman Party: Toward a Green-Independent-Libertarian Alliance

The Connecticut for Lieberman Party was founded following the Senator's defeat in the 2006 Democratic primary by Ned Lamont. Lieberman, of course, went on to win the race, and now describes himself as an 'independent Democrat.' Because of Lieberman's win, the party is guaranteed a slot on the next statewide election, which is to take place in 2010. Ironically, however, since Lieberman is not a member of the party, but rather a registered Democrat, it has been appropriated by independent activists aiming to unseat Democrat Chris Dodd in the 2010 elections. At the Fairfield Weekly, Gregory Hladky details the state of the party and its internal politics:

The Connecticut For Lieberman Party began as a Joe Lieberman vehicle, was transformed into an anti-Joe Lieberman joke, and is now attempting to transcend Joe Lieberman entirely. It’s a mutation that has left some of Lieberman’s harshest Democratic critics frustrated and worried about what this new CFL might do to the reelection chances of Connecticut’s other Democratic U.S. Senator, Chris Dodd.

“If [Dodd’s] race comes down to the wire, we don’t want a half a percent of voters to hit the joke line and cost us a Senate seat,” said Edward Anderson, a liberal Democratic activist from New Haven.

John Mertens, a Trinity College professor who is running on the CFL 2010 ballot line as a U.S. Senate candidate against Dodd, believes he has a real chance to shake up Connecticut’s political status quo. “This isn’t about Joe Lieberman. This is about turning this party into something real,” Mertens insisted. He claims the CFL offers an opportunity to change a political system festering with corruption and ineptitude. Several of his former activist colleagues claim he’s simply on a monster ego trip . . .

Upon his return to the Senate, where he called himself an “independent Democrat,” Lieberman forgot about his little party of convenience. But some of those anti-Lieberman Democrats didn’t. It was especially fascinating to them because, under Connecticut election law, any party whose statewide candidate draws 1 percent or more of the vote in one election automatically qualifies for a spot on the next statewide election ballot. If they could find a way to get that 1 percent in 2010, they could run an anti-Lieberman candidate against Lieberman in 2012 on the Connecticut For Lieberman line. Led by Fairfield University Professor John Orman, a few of those Lieberman critics took over the dormant CFL to continue their anti-Joe crusade.

“That’s what it was all about,” said Sue Henshaw, a liberal Democrat from Trumbull who was one of Orman’s original CFL allies. Henshaw said Orman “signed over” the leadership of the CFL to Mertens with the understanding it would retain its anti-Lieberman character. Orman died in July . . .

Mertens argues the point is to break through the self-protection barriers created by major parties, and he claims Orman supported a CFL challenge against Dodd. “I disagree with the position that the party exists solely to run against Joe Lieberman,” said Mertens, who is current CFL chairman.

The CFL Web site, however, opens with a denunciation of Lieberman for the “fraud perpetrated on members of this party and the citizens of Connecticut when he used creation of this party to get on the general election ballot in 2006.”

Mertens wants to get several established minor parties, including Connecticut’s Greens, the Independent Party and the Libertarians, to back only one minor party candidate in each big 2010 race. His theory is that would give each of those candidacies (particularly his own) a better shot.

He says most of the minor parties agree “that the two-party system isn’t working … that we’re all against corruption, and all against the encroachment of our personal liberties.” . . .

Mike DeRosa, co-chair of the Connecticut Green Party, said Mertens’ plan “doesn’t impress me too much.” “What are we uniting for?” he asked. “What do [all these minor parties] have in common? If we’re simply doing it as a tactical move, I don’t think it makes sense. … I think our parties need to stand for what they are.”

The idea of a Green-Independent-Libertarian alliance is an attractive one. It would be a major victory for third party and independent politics if Connecticut activists could pull it off in time for the 2010 elections, despite their reservations.

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