Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is, generally speaking, a pompous ass. He’s a foreign-policy neo-con who remains as wrong as wrong can be on the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He made a boneheaded move when he gambled everything on the doomed candidacy of John McCain. When asked a supremely retarded question during the campaign—“Is Barack Obama a Marxist?”—Lieberman gave a supremely dishonest, cynical answer: “That’s a good question.” We wish Lieberman had been beaten two years ago by Democratic challenger Ned Lamont. We’d very much like the Senate to be rid of him.
But his Senate colleagues made the right decision by letting him keep his job as chair of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. They might not have made it for the right reason, but it’s the outcome and the message that are important.
The rabid Democratic base, led by the noisy netroots community, wanted Lieberman’s head on a pike, to serve as a warning to any other Democrats who might someday consider straying from the party line. They wanted revenge. The leadership might have chosen not to cave in to such angry, shortsighted vengeance out of deference to some antiquated country-club-style etiquette. That would be the wrong reason. Maybe it was because Obama wanted Lieberman to keep his gavel. That would be the right reason.
Most voters don’t give a damn that Lieberman campaigned for McCain. They probably considered it refreshing that an independent who votes with Democrats more often than not backed a Republican for president. Obama’s post-partisan message resonated with the electorate. Too often, decisions are made in Washington, D.C., with the best interests of the party, and not the country, in mind. Had the Democrats dumped Lieberman out of his chair’s chair, the message to the voters would have been: Partisan punishment is more important than working together to solve the country’s enormous problems. It’s the good voters of Connecticut who should decide Lieberman’s fate.
Besides, the Democrats have tactical reasons for leaving Lieberman be: They’ll likely need his votes on more progressive domestic policies. There’s no good reason to risk losing him to the conservatives.
If you’re tired of party-based politics, as we are, we encourage you to shed your party affiliation and register as an independent. There are more than two potential solutions to most of the nation’s problems. We believe less adherence to the party line would engender more creative ideas.
Now, John Dingell is another matter entirely. It’s Dingell, the octogenarian Democratic Congress member from Michigan whom the netroots should really be after; he’s the guy who should be ousted from his post chair of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce. That, unlike the threatened ouster of Lieberman, would be consistent with the message of change that so many Democrats blabbed about while stumping for Obama.
Dingell has operated as if he were a lobbyist for the big-three automakers during his 27 years as the committee’s top Democrat, long resisting calls for more fuel-efficient vehicles to help stave off global warming. His wife Debbie Dingell, was, in fact, a lobbyist for General Motors until 1981 and remains a senior executive for the company. She, wrote The New York Times’ John M. Broder, is G.M.’s “most familiar face in Washington.”
Yes, this is the General Motors that killed the electric car. Yes, this is the General Motors that is part of a U.S. industry that has gotten its butt royally kicked by Japan. Yes, this is the General Motors that is one of three major automakers that have driven their businesses into the ground and now seek a taxpayer bailout.
Henry Waxman wants Dingell’s job, and the Democrats should give it to him. Waxman, the Congress member from Los Angeles, has a strong environmental record that is more in line with the trajectory of public opinion, not to mention science. It seems fitting to install a Californian, considering the federal government’s battle with the state over fuel-efficiency standards.
Local Representatives Susan Davis and Bob Filner both signed a letter to Nancy Pelosi, co-authored by Waxman, that broadly outlines a future energy policy that, reportedly, goes further than Dingell is willing to go. We urge you to contact Filner and Davis and tell them that “change” is not just a campaign slogan and that they should follow through by supporting Waxman’s coup.
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