Today in the small state of Connecticut, Democratic primary voters will set the course for America’s future. A victory by Ned Lamont in the Democratic Senate race will tangibly translate anti-war and anti-Bush polling numbers into the only poll that Bush and national politicians care about: the one held on election day. In contrast, should incumbent Joe Lieberman hold on to his seat, national pundits will have a field day exposing anti-war sentiment as exaggerated and politicians will scurry away from the progressive camp. It is always risky to put too much stock in a single election, because a loss could have a psychologically debilitating effect. But the national media is correct in framing the Lamont-Lieberman race as a battle for America’s future, as a Lamont victory would mark the beginning of the end of right-wing Republican control of the country

It is strange that America will be shaped by an August election in Connecticut, but national politicians and the media are awaiting the outcome of the Lamont-Lieberman race to figure out where voters really stand on Iraq and the nation’s future. The essential fact about America under George W. Bush and his Republican allies is that marches, protests, hostile editorials mean nothing while election outcomes are all that count.

Bush interpreted his 2004 election victory as a mandate for each and every one of his policies, and neither declining poll numbers nor fear of Republican losses in November 2006 has deterred the President or Congress from pursuing right-wing goals. Stopping the madness in Washington DC requires progressives to start winning elections, and that could begin today in Connecticut in the Lamont-Lieberman race.

Since June, Lamont has gone from ten points behind to between five and ten points ahead. This trend has already moved such Democrats as Hillary Clinton to appear more critical of the Iraq war, while former Senator and likely 2008 presidential aspirant John Edwards recently took his strongest anti-war stance by demanding the immediate withdrawal of 40,000 troops.

Lamont’s growing strength led Lieberman to announce he would run as an Independent if defeated in the primary. But polls show the Democratic incumbent is more popular with Republicans than with his own party, so his independent candidacy would be unlikely to prevent Lamont from winning in November.

For all the criticism House minority leader Nancy Pelosi gets in San Francisco for her perceived weakness in opposing the war, Pelosi has adopted Congressman Murtha’s stance and has a stronger anti-war position than virtually any member of the US Senate. A Lamont victory is needed to press Democratic Senators and its presidential contenders to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops, ratcheting up the pressure on pro-war Republicans facing voters in November.

Should Lieberman win what would now be considered an upset victory, progressives can rationalize the outcome by pointing to how the AFL-CIO, ex-President Clinton, Senator Boxer, and other Democratic stalwarts all campaigned on the incumbent’s behalf. But the dominant media and political message will be that anti-war activists are only a vocal minority in the Democratic Party, and that Democrats are not as anti-Bush as Internet sites would have it appear.

As Connecticut goes so goes America? Crazy as it sounds, these are the stakes in today’s race.

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