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A Switch in Time

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"A Switch in Time"

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As Joe Lieberman continues to indicate that he spent his entire 2006 re-election campaign lying to the voters of Connecticut, the Democratic leadership needs to get its shit together. Lieberman switching would not change committee composition or “majority” status as explained here. What’s more, it would doom his re-election bid in 2012. The main downside is that it might flip control of the Senate to the GOP in the years 2009-12 or some subset thereof, if the precise correct election outcomes arise.

The upshot is that I don’t think there’s any good reason to appease Lieberman through measures like this one reported in Time:

Last month, after Lieberman told Reid he had stopped attending the weekly Democratic lunch because he didn’t feel comfortable discussing Iraq there, Reid offered to hold those discussions at another time. Lieberman has started attending again.

It sounds dumb, but that lunch is actually the only time large groups of Democratic Senators all get together to talk things through, so it’s a semi-crippling problem to not be able to discuss Iraq there. Meanwhile, Lieberman’s threat to switch parties is essentially empty. It’s not a great idea to switch from the majority party to the minority party, especially when the electoral map in 2008 favors the Democrats. If the GOP takes the majority in ’08 or 2010, then Lieberman might switch. If the ’08 or 2010 election results make Lieberman’s decision decisive, he might go GOP in exchange for some inducements. And if John McCain offers Lieberman a spot on the GOP ticket, Lieberman will presumably take it. Beyond that, switching would be irrational and also less damaging to the Democratic Party than being unable to discuss Iraq.

I don’t share Petey’s theological certainty that none of this would have happened if Ned Lamont hadn’t run against Lieberman. Nor do I share the netroots’ theological certainty that all this merely proves that had Lamont not run Lieberman would have defected. (I’m really puzzled as to how people have become so certain about a murky psychological counterfactual.) What it does show clearly is that the “Democratic establishment” erred by not seriously backing the election of the Democratic Party’s nominee, once Lamont had won the primary.

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