Joe Lieberman Does Unpopular Stuff, Unpopularity Ensues, The Hill is Confused

As we all recall, it was just a short time ago that Joe Lieberman held the health reform process hostage to some idiosyncratic demands. Expanding coverage and curbing the deficit were important, said Lieberman, but not so important that he would vote to do those things. Unless, that is, some popular ideas like a public option or Medicare expansion were completely killed. He got his way, and now the health care train is moving. But you can see why these kind of actions would make you less popular. Unless, that is, you write for The Hill in which case you see them as puzzling:

It is difficult to pinpoint when or why Lieberman has taken a hit: In the past two weeks, he not only crucial in helping remove the healthcare bill’s public option and Medicare buy-in provisions, but also subsequently announced that he would join with Democrats to support the bill after those provisions were removed.

These seems like a nice encapsulation of the weird fetishization of “centrist” politics that we have in DC. In some trivial sense it’s politically savvy to be “in the center” in the sense of having most people agree with you. But not every instance of “centrist” dealmaking is going to hit that sweet spot. And the polling on this was pretty clear — people had a lot of doubts about health reform, but definitely liked the public programs idea.