Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sometimes, You Can't Do Much

There have been basically two reactions from health care reform supporters to Holy Joe's comments yesterday indicating that he might oppose cloture at the end of floor action. There's the Harry Reid/Ezra Klein tack, which is to sort of laugh it off. And then there's pretty much everyone else, with the best version being Jonathan Chait's "It Was Lieberman All Along."

Two quick reactions from me. First, some liberals are having a bit of a "told you so" moment, centered on the decision by Senate Democrats to let Lieberman keep his committee chair. I think that's just nuts. Lieberman may or may not wind up voting with the Democrats on this one -- I think I'm tentatively with Ezra, but it's hard to say what's going on in Holy Joe's mind -- but I think there's no question at all what would have happened had he been kicked out of the Democratic caucus. He's voted as a moderate Democrat overall in this Congress; had he moved over to the GOP, I'm confident that he would have shifted his voting pattern to fit in with mainstream Republicans (in other words, to the right of Snowe and Collins). Lieberman is, no question about it, a problem for the Dems, but he's a problem because he's a maybe; turning him into a clear "no" is a loss, not a solution.

Second...Chris Bowers over at Open Left asks progressives:
One thing that is not speculative is that we are going to have to find a way to pressure Lieberman hard as a result of this statement. Any suggestions?
Well, I have one, but Bowers isn't going to like it: Ignore him. There are no carrots that liberals can offer Lieberman -- they certainly aren't going to support him for reelection even if he becomes the most enthusiastic single-payer advocate, and they can't even offer to remain neutral. Since liberals are going to oppose Lieberman (and rightly so) full-out whatever he does on this issue, they really have no remaining ammunition. If Chait is correct, however, and as a long-time Lieberman watcher I tend to agree with him on this point, then Holy Joe is primarily motivated on this one out of spite. If that's right, the more direct confrontations with liberals he's forced into, the more he's apt to see this as a chance to get back at them.

Of course, there's always my Big Compromise proposal (see step six), but somehow I don't think Bowers would go for it.

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