Friday, November 7, 2008

Let Joe Stay (or, The Most Painful Blog Post I've Ever Written)

Note: Although I do not share the author's dislike for Joe Lieberman, I believe this article show's the that allowing Sen. Lieberman to keep his Chairmanship positions would benefit the Democratic Party.

By Publius,
May 17, 2008

[Note: This article is taken from the Obsidian Wings Blog and can be found in its original form at]

Let me state this as clearly as I can — I don’t like Joe Lieberman. We have policy disagreements, sure, but I like lots of officials whom I disagree with. No, I dislike Fightin’ Joe because he’s driven more by petty wankerous spite than by policy or conscience. And nothing would make me happier than to see him kicked out of the caucus (and out of his committee chair) next year.

So it is with a heavy heart that I must offer this recommendation — the Dems should leave Lieberman alone and let him keep his committee chair in the next Congress.

The short explanation is that his vote is simply too valuable. For all his self-righteous preening and prancing, he does vote with Democrats on everything except national security issues. That’s a problem of course, as is his endorsement of, and campaigning for, John McCain. But even in light of these extremely bitter pills, his generally-favorable Senate vote is just too valuable to give up.

The objection to this argument, though, is that the Dems have no real need for him with the expanded majorities expected next year. Joe may well be necessary for this congressional session, but not so much come next January. That thinking, however, misses a key point.

The problem is that Joe’s vote will actually become more important the more that Democratic majorities expand. More precisely, the closer that the Dems get to the magic number (60), the more vital Joe becomes. Ironically enough, I think Lieberman is more important in a 59-41 Senate than in a 53-47 one.

As the recent Alaska numbers show (via LGM), the magic number of 60 is very doable, if still unlikely. But that said, the Dems don’t actually have to get to 60 itself. If Dems can reach the 57-59 range, then it becomes much easier to pick off stray Republican Senators (e.g., Snowe, Specter, Gregg, Voinovich — all of whom are up for reelection in 2010 except Snowe).

So if the Dems can at least approach 60, the whole game changes. With a new President and an expanded House majority, the Dems could suddenly pass some truly historic legislation — e.g., universal health care, major energy/environmental reform, an awesome Supreme Court Justice, more progressive federal judges, and so on. In short, it opens up a new window of possibilities that Democrats haven’t seen since post-1964 — and one that would likely be fleeting, if history is any guide.

So even if Joe isn’t necessary for a majority, he could easily be a swing vote on ending a key filibuster. If you let him keep his committee chairmanship (as distasteful as that may be), you retain leverage over him. It won’t stop his national security pettiness, but it will hopefully ensure that Lieberman is the not the reason that universal health care fails (or any other similarly important legislation).

If, by contrast, you kick him out, he will — because he’s a spiteful seven year old — do whatever he can to thwart Democrats. For that reason, I’ll trade vengeance for a better shot at historic progressive legislation.

It’s a bit of a hostage situation, sure. Some might even call it appeasement. And yes, Marshall Wittmann would remain employed. But the stakes are too high. Let him keep his chair and leave him to the Connecticut voters in 2012.


Malnurtured Snay said...

If there was a mandate in this election, it was to elevate the political tone in Washington. Doing this to Joe Lieberman, no matter how badly he deserves it, would be thwarting that mandate.

John SFL said...

Let Joe keep his chairmanship in a Dem majority he's spent the past year working against? That makes no sense. He should not benefit from the hard work of good Democrats.

freelunch said...

Joe, had you betrayed the party by endorsing McCain when this was originally written?

Joe, you're not a Democrat. You doesn't like Democrats. You don't support Democrats. The Democrats owe you nothing.