On Lieberman's Chairmanship

Megan says the Dems in the Senate will be gunning for Lieberman. There's no way to know for sure, but I'm not really seeing it--even with a change in the math. Jay Rockefeller defending Lieberman.

I've laid out my feelings about Lieberman, and it really galls to see Senators defending him, or Harry Reid foolishly extolling his virtues. But I'm not totally convinced that tossing him is the best move. It's hard to think about this while passions are running high, but it's worth asking where we would be, right now, had Lieberman been booted after Obama won. It's simply not clear to me that--in terms of passing legislation--the Dems would be better off.

One argument in favor of punishment is perserving party discipline. But I think the moment the Dems decided that they wanted to be the party of men with Confederate flags on thier pickup trucks, a certain amount of that was lost. People often cite the GOP's willingness to bring its heretics to heel. But there's direct connection between that willingness, and the GOP's status as part of the old South.

I really wonder how the stimulus would have went had Lieberman been kicked. From what I can tell, he really doesn't have much grasp on policy, and mostly sees politics as the science of crafting legislation that fits your disposition. I think I know what Lieberman's disposition would have been had he lost his chairmanship.

Surely Lieberman deserves to lose his chairmanship. But you don't get to slug every jerk that gets in your way--even if they deserve it.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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