THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

No Mo Joe

Joe Lieberman should have been exiled from the Democratic caucus long ago. He should be kicked out now. After bolting the Party and not respecting the will of Connecticut Democrats in 2006's primary loss to Ned Lamont, he got re-elected to the Senate with big Republican help. Then he endorsed John McCain last year. Then he went to the Republican Convention. Then he gave a speech at that convention blasting Barack Obama. The Democrats still invited him back this year, gave him a committee chairmanship and now are letting him run their Party. What would Republicans do to one of their members who acted this way? Would we ever find the body?

There is no benefit to having him as "the 60th vote" if he is not going to support the majority, but is going to bend the majority to his will. Not only should the Democrats say "no" to more Joe, they should realize they are destroying their base and the President has lost his mojo.

The President has also lost his perspective. So desperate to make a deal, any deal, on health insurance, so that he can declare "victory", he is telling all the Democrats to do whatever Lieberman wants. And they are going along with it. On Sen. Byron Dorgan's prescription drug re-importation amendment, 30 Democrats voted "no" and the amendment still passed - 51-48. But it didn't pass. Why? It didn't reach the filibuster-proof magic number of 60. The President made a deal with the drug companies (they still support the bill, and we still don't have negotiated prescription drug prices in Medicare) and that is why he asked the 30 Democrats to vote against the Dorgan Amendment. They went along with the President, damaging their constituents for $19 billion dollars per year and working for the drug companies.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Russ Feingold (at least) should turn the tables on the President and Mr. Lieberman by making their own demands - or else they will join the Republican filibuster! Two can play this game! Senators Sanders and Feingold should demand a real public option, plus a Medicare buy-in for those 50 and above, plus no subsidies to private insurers (if insurance is unaffordable, enroll the people in Medicare and Medicaid; the rules of capitalism do not say 'pay with taxpayer dollars to make an unaffordable product affordable' - if anti-abortion people can say they don't want their tax dollars going to abortion, I don't want my tax dollars going to insurance company corporate welfare) plus negotiated prices for prescription drugs in the Medicare program, plus re-importation of prescription drugs. Or else filibuster.

The President has forgotten who put him into the building where he lives and works. He has also forgotten that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. He got so many people so energized, that the fall into disappointment and bitterness is a long ride - and the base, once burned this badly, will no longer respond when the President and Democrats, playing 'Lucy with the football' in Charlie Brown comics-style, says 'Come on, kick the ball, I won't pull it away this time'.

The first rule of politics is "punish your enemies, reward your friends". Even George W. Bush knew this rule. The President and his fellow Democrats have forgotten this and will pay the price.

Can victory be snatched from the jaws of defeat? Yes, in at least two ways.

First, the President can rescue his Presidency - and Democrats can rescue their Party - by immediately using reconciliation to pass a real public option plus a Medicare buy-in immediately after the President signs the turd that Congress is about to pass on health insurance. A second bill. By using the reconciliation procedure (which requires only a simple majority vote - no filibuster) Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress can say to their base "See? We were playing chess all along - we got what we all wanted but couldn't tip our hands in the first bill because Joe never would have voted for the first bill."

Second, the filibuster should be abolished. We already have one anti-democratic branch of government - the federal courts. Lieberman is using this antidemocratic rule to leverage himself into the real leader of the Democratic Party - a party he left over 3 years ago! Wait for alleged Democratic Senator Ben Nelson to say the price for his vote is abolishing all abortions - will the President say "do that too"?

With the filibuster gone, we can say "No More Joe" and pass what real Democrats want - leaving Blanche Lincoln and the rest behind. We are so close, yet so far - all because of the silly, anachronistic filibuster rule. Let democracy rule - for good and for ill.

At least I can still dream.

www.normangoldman.com

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