Taking Yes for an Answer

I appreciate the points that the Great Orange Satan and Glenn Greenwald are making about Jon Chait’s flip-flops on the subject of Joe Lieberman and ideological purges. But this strikes me as a time when it might be a good idea to just take “yes” for an answer. If you make groveling apologies your price for admitting converts, you’re going to find yourself running a small church.

That said, I don’t think it’s been generally acknowledged how much damage the Democratic Party leadership’s failure to aggressively back Ned Lamont in the 2006 general election has wound up doing to the cause of progressive politics. The issue has less to do with the specific malfeasance of Lieberman than with the consequences for party discipline. If you can go so far as to lose a Democratic primary and run against the Democratic Party’s nominee and still not get kneecapped by the leaders of your party, then of course you’ll feel no compunction about joining opposition party procedural obstruction and all the rest. The only way for a party to transform election results into policy outcomes is via some mechanisms of discipline, and the Democratic Senate caucus operates with no such mechanisms. And it does so because even the more liberal Senators — including, in his day, Barack Obama — show no inclination to make the kind of personal sacrifices that building an effective caucus would entail.

The selfishness per se isn’t all that surprising, but the Republicans actually operate under different rules so it’s not impossible for things to change.