Steve Benen points us to this salient observation by Matt Yglesias:
Matt had a good piece a couple of weeks ago about the nature of political parties. "The Senate Republican caucus is organized, like the House caucuses of both parties, like a partisan political organization whose objective is to advance the shared policy objectives of the party. The Senate Democratic caucus, by contrast, is organized like a fun country club trying to recruit members. Join Team Democrat and Vote However You Want Without Consequence! But it's no way to get things done."We've seen this line taken over and over again with the various outlier members of the Democratic Caucus--so long as they are outliers on the right, of course! No such comity for freaks on the left. But this is more than a problem for "getting things done." Its an insult--an insult to the voters who are asked to give time and money and votes to a candidate and to a party. No one voted for "good old Joe" or for "good old Chris Dodd" to be able to go play in the sandbox every day with their friends. We voted for them--if we did--to fucking get some shit done for the voters. I don't care if Lieberman hates his job every day. I don't care if he gets up and complains to Haddassah that the other Senators were mean to him. He was hired by the people of CT to do things for them. The Democrats and Obama were hired by the voters to get some things done. Every time Obama and Reid allow some Democrats to break ranks they are allowing all the Democrats to break faith with the voters on this central issue: we voted for the party because the party said it would do things *as a party.* They told us they needed the White House, the Congress, and the Senate to do those things. We did our part, now they have to do theirs.
The health care debate has been marred by the weirdest and most blinkered kinds of class entitlement since the get go. Very few of the Senators, even the ones promoting Health Care Reform, have bothered to inform themselves of the stakes, or the issues, or the costs, of the very bills they claim to be working on. Very few of them seem to grasp that the majority of Americans are one medical disaster away from bankruptcy. Or that the uninsured and the underinsured actually die for the lack of the safety net that is freely available in other industrialized countries. That's one kind of class based blindness. But the other, which seems to exist purely on the Democratic side, is this strange notion that the voters give a shit who is friends with who in the Senate. Not only do we not care who is friends with who, or who has drunk and danced and commiserated with who over a long and well paid career. We don't even believe it. Lieberman isn't "friends" with democrats like Kerry or Obama--he showed that during the previous campaigns. And he isn't friends with anyone, really--Dodd and Reid keep using friendship and comity as shields against enforcing party line loyalty. But you can't have it both ways on this one. Either the guy is a loyal Democrat by vote (which he's not) or he's a dangerous enemy who must be controlled. Either way this continued insistence that friendship and comity are the issue are just another form of class privilege: the privilege, shared by children and important people, of believing that the world revolves around you and your pleasures. The rest of the world gets up and goes to work regardless of whether it is with friends or enemies, regardless of whether it includes ego gratification.
TPM articulated the bitch slap theory of politics to analyze the Republican Strategy underlying the Swift Boat attacks on Kerry. Basically, he argued that the Republicans were using insults and aggressive smears to demonstrate to the public that Democrats were unable to protect themselves from attack. It scarcely mattered what the attack --in fact, the sillier the better--because the goal was to make the Democrats under react (in which case they looked weak) or overreact (in which case they looked hysterical). Lieberman (and Bayh and the rest of them) are bitch slapping the Democratic Caucus and the President. As usual the Democrats have chosen the Kerry strategy of trying to rise above it all. "Joe will be Joe!" "Joe's a good friend of mine!" Blah, blah, blah. This worked spectacularly well for Kerry when he failed to respond aggressively to the Swift Boaters and its going to work just as well with Lieberman.
I'm not arguing that Lieberman or Bayh's strategy is an electoral one--that is, aimed at the electorate-- I'd say its more pathological at this point. But it will have devastating electoral consequences if it isn't nipped in the bud. Even if, by some miracle, the White House and Reid manage to hold the caucus together long enough to get to cloture on the opt out Public Option allowing this kind of bitching and moaning from the right wing fringe of the party is already having devastating consequences for the strength of the eventual Public Option, Health Care Reform, and for the prestige of the President and the Democratic Party. That's going to hurt, down the line. And I submit that those things aren't Obama's and Reids to give away. When they allow themselves to be bitch slapped by Lieberman, Bayh, et al they are allowing all of us to be attacked. And when they don't respond? We are all of us hurt.