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The retention of Joe Lieberman as Homeland Security Chair has proven one thing above all: that for far too many D.C. Democrats, collegiality and business as usual trumps not only the will of the people, but political advantage itself.

It was easy to dismiss the outpouring of support for Lieberman in 2006 from nearly every single piece of the Democratic Establishment as an effort to stay on his good side should Lieberman have won.  It was a safe and easy thing to do.

But today's vote makes it clear that there is almost nothing a politician can do in the Senate that trumps collegiality, absent a successful prosecution or very tawdry sex scandal.  That means that it's up to us to take matters into our own hands at the ballot box.

The quote relayed at FireDogLake from the unnamed Democratic Senate Aide bears repeating:

"Asked what it would mean if Lieberman kept his chairmanship, one Senate Democratic aide said bluntly: "The left has been foiled again. They can rant and rage but they still do not put the fear into folks to actually change their votes. Their influence would be in question."

The fact of the matter is this: Lamont's victory over Lieberman in the Democratic primary was an earth-shaking event on the political landscape.  The team at Fox News looked even more sullen after Lieberman's primary loss than after the shellacking the GOP took later in November.  For the tide of the country to turn and for Democrats to regain a slight edge from Republicans was one thing.  But the progressive left becoming a potent force to be feared in American politics?  Well, that was quite another, far more terrifying development for the powers that be. A progressive Left that had been seen as utterly impotent, had suddenly taken on the entire Democratic establishment and its former VP candidate--and won.

As I said at the time:

In one corner, you had a bunch of unpaid volunteers, Internet rabble-rousers, and an inexperienced politician whose highest post had been County Selectman.

In the other, you had the three-time Senator, former vice-presidential candidate, visible party statesman, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, the other popular CT senator Dodd, most of Organized Labor, the women's groups and the environmental groups, most of traditional Democratic party support, paid lobbyist support, paid armies of GOTV staff, the slick ad money, the top DLC consultants, and a 3 to 1 budget gap.

I'm sorry.  That's not David vs. Goliath.  This isn't even the NBA champions versus a rec league team.That's more like an ant vs. my shoe.

And the shoe lost.

So important was it not to give the progressive Left a huge victory in the general as well, that the Republicans completely abandoned their own candidate to keep their most useful tool in his seat.  And when Lieberman held onto his seat in November with the help of an overwhelming majority of Republican voters, all seemed right with the world again back in the D.C. bubble.  Supposedly "conservative" Democrats had been elected to the Senate in Virginia, Montana, and Missouri, and Lieberman's prominence in the constellation of D.C.'s leading lights of wankery was restored.

Then came 2008.  And again, the Democratic Establishment was slapped in the face by the progressive left, as insurgent campaigns by John Edwards and Barack Obama affirmed the wisdom of the 50-state strategy and the mood of the electorate, overturning what was supposed to be a Clinton coronation and changing the face of American politics.  Or, at least, it should have changed the face of American politics.  Americans voted unequivocally for change.  Change we can believe in.

Clearly, however, the Democratic Establishment, particularly in the Senate, hasn't learned its lesson.  It didn't learn it in 2006, and it apparently didn't learn it in 2008, either.  They think we are powerless.  They think that "change" is a slogan, not a real demand coming from the American people.

Senate Democrats believe their victories were not due to the efforts of progressives, but rather due to discontent with Republican policies by the mushy middle.  They believe our anger is over the policies just of the last 8 years, rather than the last twenty-eight.  They neither fear nor respect you.  2012 will give us yet another opportunity to prove them wrong.  What the Democratic Senate refuses to do out of fear of granting a victory to the progressive Left, we will do at the ballot box.

With overwhelming majorities now in the House and Senate, Democrats will have only a few electoral cycles at most in which to make real change before the political pendulum swings back the other way.  Unless the doofuses in the Senate Establishment actually begin to fear the electoral power of progressives, this historic opportunity to create real change will have been squandered.  Primaries against bad Democrats now become almost as important as defeating more Republicans.

As Democrats prepare to govern, we must now turn our attention to two matters:

  • First, the removal of Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader, and support for his upcoming primary challenger.  And he will get one.  His leadership was an abysmal failure from a policy perspective for the last years of the Bush Administration, and his allowing Joe Lieberman to retain his seat shows that we are in for more of the same.  Pressure must be put to bear for change we can believe in: capitulating to George Bush is one thing, but capitulating to turncoat Joe Lieberman in the face of such a clear mandate from the American people is quite another.  Enough is enough.

  • Second, the resounding defeat of Joe Lieberman at the ballot box in 2012.  There is no way that smarmy little shit should be able to keep his seat.  The people of Connecticut now belatedly see him for the opportunistic liar he is, and want nothing to do with him.  Let's make sure it stays that way.  Removing Joe Lieberman in 2012 by the voice of the people is one of the most important things we can do on any level over the next four years.

Because until we as progressives can hold our own in line, our Establishment Senators will continue to place collegiality ahead of efficacy or even political intelligence.  In a country as badly in need of change as this one, that's a completely unacceptable status quo.

Originally posted to thereisnospoon (David Atkins) on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 12:40 PM PST.

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