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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman talks at QU about crossing the political aisle

Katie Langley
Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman emphasizes the importance of political bipartisanship in his March 7 visit at Quinnipiac University, as a part of the Critical Conversation Speaker Series.

Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is perhaps best known as Al Gore’s running mate in the highly-contested 2000 presidential election that came down to a few stray pieces of paper in Florida. 

And while his run with the former Clinton vice president was marred by requests for recounts and a heated legal battle — one that the Gore campaign lost — Lieberman wants you to know him as more than a failed vice presidential hopeful. 

Instead, Lieberman has made his mark as a two-party system nonconformist and a vocal advocate for bipartisanship. 

Speaking at Quinnipiac University to an at-capacity Mt. Carmel Auditorium on March 7 just hours before President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address, the Democrat-turned-independent emphasized Americans’ need to reach across the aisle and overcome political polarization. 

David Fryson, Quinnipiac’s interim vice president for inclusive excellence, introduced Lieberman, whose visit was part of the university’s Critical Conversations Speaker Series. Lieberman — who served as a Connecticut senator for 24 years — presented a talk titled, “Creating Dialogue Across Differences.” His speech was followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by Khalilah Brown-Dean, associate provost for faculty affairs. 

In his address, the 82-year-old Stamford, Connecticut, native spanned both traditional and modern values, calling for diversity and inclusion as he peppered in religious messaging. 

Lieberman also focused largely on the legacy of America’s founding fathers, arguing that compromise is just as important in 2024 as it was in 1776. 

“The founders knew because they were committed to this great cause, that they needed to listen to each other and compromise,” Lieberman said.

However, the current partisan system of “ideological warfare,” Lieberman said, “exploits” peoples’ anxieties instead of looking for resolutions. 

“Technological changes, demographic changes, cultural changes have created in a lot of people in our country a profound sense of insecurity, anxiety and, uncharacteristic for Americans, pessimism about the future,” Lieberman said. 

Compromise is one of the core values of Lieberman’s centrist political organization, No Labels, which strives to defeat political divisiveness and serve as a voice for the “politically homeless” — those who don’t identify as Democrat or Republican. 

The organization has already committed to sponsoring a third-party presidential candidate in the 2024 election if the two parties select presidential nominees the majority of Americans don’t support — like Biden and former President Donald Trump. 

“I’m inspired by a wonderful quote from Thomas Jefferson, way back where he wrote to a friend, ‘In this new country of ours, it will be a good thing to have a political rebellion,’” Lieberman said about a potential third-party ticket. “Every now and then, it’ll be as important as storms are in the natural world … And I think we’re at a moment like that.” 

And with 70% of Americans saying that Biden should not seek re-election and more than 55% believing Trump should not run — according to a January Reuters/Ipsos poll — it is clear that many voters are not thrilled with their choices. 

Students who attended Lieberman’s speech said they have seen the need for bipartisanship in today’s polarized political climate. 

“I was raised with a Republican father and a Democratic mother, who both kind of go their separate ways on political issues, and I’ve always kind of thought that a lot of people would agree with them on different topics but would align themselves with one party,” said Lauren Jerram, a senior applied business major. “And it was interesting to hear a … former senator talk about that same issue and say, ‘People aren’t one or the other.’” 

Coincidentally, Lieberman’s visit to Quinnipiac came at a crucial moment in the 2024 presidential race, with Trump and Biden largely sweeping their respective parties’ Super Tuesday contests just two days prior. 

Lieberman said he anticipates the Trump and Biden campaigns to continue to be “bitter” rather than focusing on issues and policies. However, he said that he would support Biden if the race comes down to the two. 

“Trump represents a unique threat,” Lieberman said of the former president’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election. 

Thomas Peters, Student Government Association’s vice president for public relations, said conversations like Lieberman’s talk at Quinnipiac are especially crucial in the current political climate. 

“It’s great that we have people that perhaps we don’t necessarily agree with come and speak to us, and we listen to them because, as (Lieberman) expressed in his conversation here today, that there’s a lot of division that we need to heal in our country,” said Peters, a junior political science major. 

Lieberman has won many elections throughout his time — for Connecticut state Senate in 1971, state attorney general in 1983 and four separate elections to Congress between 1989 and 2013 — but that does not mean he forgets losing the big one. And though Lieberman never made it to the White House, he is proud to call himself a member of a “very exclusive club” of “people who have lost national elections.” The former senator left Quinnipiac students with some advice about resiliency: get up and keep on trying. 

“So in 2000 … what did I do the morning after Al Gore and I conceded? I went to the Senate. I went to my office,” Lieberman said.

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Katie Langley
Katie Langley, Editor-in-Chief

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