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The Coup of 2011

By Matthew Yglesias  

"The Coup of 2011"

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It occurred to me today that there’s at least some chance that in January of 2011 the US Senate will have 49 Democrats, Joe Lieberman, Charlie Crist, and 49 Republicans. Which is to say that Lieberman & Crist could form a two-man caucus, hold the balance of power, and drive organization of the Senate. Crist could leapfrog seniority and chair a committee. And if it looked like that might happen, mightn’t it make sense for Northeastern moderate Republicans (Snowe, Collins, Brown, Castle) and Southern moderate Democrats (Landrieu, Pryor, Hagan) to join their rebellion against the two party system? After all, Duverger’s Law predicts that we should only have two parties in any given place but it might make sense for those to be different parties in the different regions.

I recall back when Jim Jeffords switched parties in 2001 thinking that it would have been canny for Collins, Snowe, Specter, and Lieberman to all band together with him to form some centrist bloc that could control the agenda. There turn out to be lots of reasons why that sort of thing doesn’t happen. But one thing I’ve learned over the past nine years is that the American political system is very norm-driven in addition to rule-driven, and sufficiently entrepreneurial politicians can change things up quite a lot.

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