I haven’t seen the netroots this flat out angry at Democratic leadership ever. Ever.
Even in the early days of the netroots when bloggers were spitting nails at the party over its complacency in the face of the Bush administration’s malfeasance, the anger was more moderated. But now, with Joe Lieberman’s latest attention getting, reform stopping stunt, the netroots are flat-out pissed off.
Time and again, Democratic officials have given Lieberman anything he wanted in exchange for the promise that he would vote to end filibusters. And time and again, Lieberman has been Lucy and the Democratic party Charlie Brown. It’s time to stop putting up with this arrogant, small-minded man. His ego is the size of Montana and the one key leverage Dems have over him is his ego. Strip him of his Chairmanship. Tell him if he wants it back, it’s time to play ball; he will vote the way we want or he doesn’t get his gavel back. He’s a republican in all but name anyway, so let him caucus with the Republicans. He won’t get to be chairman of anything.
Joe Lieberman is a bad Democrat, that’s why he lost the primary. My favorite comment about the sitch comes from Jonathan Chait:
I also think liberals, myself included, might be driving ourselves a little nuts trying to divine Lieberman’s motives. He keeps flip-flopping and explaining his shifts by making demonstrably false claims. What’s his game? Why does he keep saying these wrong, uninformed things?
I think one answer here is that Lieberman isn’t actually all that smart. He speaks, and seems to think, exclusively in terms of generalities and broad statements of principle. But there’s little evidence that he’s a sharp or clear thinker, and certainly no evidence that he knows or cares about the details of health care reform. At one point during the 2000 recount, the Gore campaign explained to Lieberman why lowering standards for military ballots would be totally unfair and illegal, and Lieberman proceeded to go on television and subvert the campaign’s position. Gore loyalists interpreted this as a sellout, but perhaps the more plausible explanation was that Lieberman — who, after all, badly wanted to be vice-President — just didn’t understand the details of the Gore position well enough to defend it. The guy was taken apart by Dick Cheney in the 2000 veep debate.
Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight says that Lieberman’s basic motive at this point is to stick it to the liberals who supported Ned Lamont in 2006 and not him. I’d say that’s not far off – Lieberman has always struck me as an petty person. His moralistic attacks on Bill Clinton in the 90s were little more than shallow politicking.
What should concern Lieberman is that party officials need to patch up their relationship with the party base after this particular legislative nightmare. The party base – as seen in a recent poll – really wants Lieberman’s head on a platter. If officials want the base to come out and vote next year, they could easily deliver on that. Once health care reform passes, let the rest of the caucus carve up Lieberman. Strip him of his chairmanship, deny him any voice in policy making. Slam him publicly and tear him into shreds. When he starts to caucus with the Republicans, shrug your shoulders and woefully express how sad it is to see a once honored Democratic legislator become a Republican and turn his back on his voters and his values.
Here’s the thing: an attack Lieberman campaign is no cost to Democratic Senators. Republicans really don’t care for him, Democratic activists hate him. If he votes to end a filibuster, Republicans will hate him; if he votes for a filibuster, the Dems will have a target for night of the long knives. He has put himself in the perfect position to be a scapegoat for both sides. Steve Benen at Washington Monthly reports that Harry Reid is livid at Lieberman’s betrayal; my take on Reid is that if he thinks he might lose his re-election bid next year, he’ll lead the charge against Lieberman with a full-throated bloody-minded brutality that will surprise the Connecticutt senator. But will keep the base motivated. Lieberman’s head on a platter is a shrewd strategy.
For Lieberman the problem is simple. Next year, if Dems lose two or three seats, they’ll tear him to pieces. His vote won’t make any difference. If Dems win a single Senate seat next year, Lieberman becomes irrelevant. They toss him aside. Lieberman’s influence exists solely because of the Senate’s anti-majoritarian rules. A slight shift either direction robs him of his influence. Like a misbehaving child, Lieberman has opted for the “attention getting” approach rather an a substantive, policy making approach.