This is a recipe for endless progressive frustration. If the more progressive political party is deliberately organized so as to be less effective as a caucus than the more conservative political party, then it’ll always be very hard to enact progressive legislation. And if even the members who are fully aware of this dynamic and who don’t like its consequences nonetheless support maintaining the status quo because it maximizes their personal self-interest, then we’re a long way from changing things.But of course that's not the case at all: in fact, Congress is very close to changing things -- health care reform is very likely to pass this year.
And part of the reason for that is that the Republicans booted away seats in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania because they insist on strict discipline, while Democrats retained Joe Lieberman despite about as much provocation as one can imagine. The results? Arlen Specter now behaves like a mainstream Democrat instead of like a swing vote, and Joe Lieberman still votes mostly with the marginal Democrats on issues outside of foreign affairs, instead of shifting over to where mainstream Republicans are.
It's obviously a mistake to assume that just because you're winning it must be the case that you're winning because your strategy is correct, but I do think it's odd that so many liberals believe that the correct response to winning is to adopt the losers' strategy.