We see this in a New York congressional election. The Republican party likes Dede Scozzafava, a pro-choice moderate, for NY-23. The RINO hunters see Scozzafava as ideologically impure, so they're backing teabagger Doug Hoffman, who's sufficiently insane. As a result, the Wall Street Journal reported, "Mr. Hoffman has siphoned so much support from Ms. Scozzafava that their Democratic rival has vaulted into the lead..."
It's the electoral version of "better dead than red"; better to lose an election than to vote in an impure Republican. Better dead than RINO. I've been critical of this thinking and, while I haven't held off from being too critical of moderate and conservative Democrats, I haven't started dragging my own guillotine around. One of the many drawbacks to a two-party system is that there is no middle. When Democrats are up in numbers, as they are now, those moderates wind up in the Democratic Party. When the GOP is up, it's the other way around. American political parties are coalition parties by necessity and, when you've got a lot of members, it means your coalition is more diverse; i.e., you're going to wind up with a lot of members who can be accused of not being "real Democrats" or "real Republicans." Thinking you can do something about this (short of reforming elections to make third parties more feasible) is like complaining about winter -- it feels good, but there's really nothing anyone can do about it.
I bring all this up to put all my cards on the table. Where I go from here is practically inviting charges of hypocrisy -- Joe Lieberman has got to go.
If you've been in a coma or trapped in a coal mine for a little bit, you may not know that Lieberman has thrown a monkeywrench into healthcare reform by threatening to join Republicans in a filibuster unless a public option is stripped from the bill. Lieberman was always the one who made the Democrat's supposedly "filibuster-proof" 60 seat majority a little squishy. Having campaigned for John McCain, Lieberman's support of Obama's Democratic Party has always been mostly theoretical. If it weren't for that 60 seat majority, there would be no point in giving a crap about Joe Lieberman either way. And now he's shown that Democrats don't have that 60, so screw him.
Over at FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver runs through the possible motivations for Lieberman's big "screw you" move. Re-election? Nope, the people of Connecticut want a public option and polls show he'd lose to a well-funded Democrat. More power? Hardly. As I've already pointed out, if he can't deliver 60, then he stands to lose power by being kicked out of the Democratic caucus. When you break it down, it doesn't seem like a rational move and Silver contends that this is because it's not.
What Joe Lieberman wants, in all probability, is attention. He wants Harry Reid to have to stand up and say things like: "I don't have anyone that I've worked harder with, have more respect for, in the Senate than Joe Lieberman." He wants face time on Meet the Press. He wants to make liberals feel some pain -- especially those who tried to get Ned Lamont elected in his place. He wants everyone to know how maverick-y he is.
In other words, Joe Lieberman -- sole member of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party -- is all about Joe Lieberman. He watched Chuck Grassley become the center of attention, then Olympia Snowe, and figured it was his turn. You've seen this kid on the playground; "Mom! Mom! Look at me! Mom! Look at me! Mom! Mo-om, look at me! Mom! Mom!" Only the mother loves that kid and I'm not Joe Lieberman's mom.
Of course, if Lieberman wises up and drops his filibuster threat, Democrats will probably keep him around. After all, that'll be the price of his vote. After all the smoke clears, all he'll have gotten was a lot of attention. But Harry Reid ought to stand on Lieberman's neck and tell him to get in line or get the hell out, making it clear that this is the last of his nine (actually fifteen) lives. We get an up or down vote on healthcare reform, he gets to keep his committee, and he gets to shut the hell up from now on. Take or leave it and if it's leave it, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. As a Prima Donna, Lieberman has made himself more trouble than he was ever worth. You're number 60, Joe -- no more than that -- and if you can't even be that then you're nothing. There hasn't been a lot of talk about budget reconciliation lately, but Lieberman's 60th vote isn't strictly necessary.
Will this hurt Democrats the same way that RINO hunting hurts Republicans? Hardly. A Republican would lose a Connecticut Senate election to a cinderblock. Throwing Lieberman out would probably kill any chance of re-election -- assuming Lieberman's not on an attention-whore bender because he secretly plans to retire anyway.
If Joe wants attention more than he wants to serve America, give him center stage with the guillotine. I can't think of one good reason not to.
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