Independence Day

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska leaves a meeting with the Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on November 16, 2022. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Say the word “maverick” in any conversation about the U.S. Senate and thoughts will turn to John McCain, not without reason. But for all his independent-mindedness, McCain never left the GOP. To the end, even as the party of Reagan was becoming the party of Trump, he remained a Republican.

For my money, the most maverick-y maverick of the past 20 years was actually Democrat Joe Lieberman, who passed away on Wednesday at age 82.

Lieberman’s status was partly earned and partly forced upon him. He ran for reelection in Connecticut in 2006 as a staunch defender of the Iraq war, making him a terrible fit for a Democratic Party whose base had mobilized in opposition. He ended up losing the primary to upstart Ned Lamont, which would have been the end of any other politician.

But Lieberman had banked lots of goodwill on the right for refusing to run away from the war as so many other liberal hawks had. So he promptly re-registered as an independent (an independent Democrat, he called himself), ran in the general election, and drew enough support from both sides to defeat Lamont and win another term.

And that’s not even his greatest claim to maverick fame.

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