It’s Not About Loyalty to Party; It’s About Loyalty to the Club

As much as I share Kevin’s anger, I think he’s missing the point here:

I see that Senate Democrats have voted to allow Joe Lieberman to keep his committee chairmanship. I guess they really showed him, didn’t they? No Democrat will ever dare to support a Republican candidate for president, speak at the Republican national convention in prime time, and bad mouth the Democratic Party’s candidate ever again.

At least one Independent who caucuses with the Democrats certainly will do all those things again, and more — but it’s not about that. It’s not about Lieberman’s qualifications for the job, either. Obviously, Howard Dean and Harry Reid and Chris Dodd et al. don’t care about those things nearly as much as they care about sticking together and sticking it to the left. That, and their membership in the most exclusive private club in the world.

… The Senate is a legislative body that was built on and even today relies heavily upon personal loyalties. It’s why West Virginia Sen. Bob Byrd (D) and Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) are close friends although they agree on almost nothing from a policy perspective; they have spent decades together on the Appropriations committee and, in the Senate, that connection runs far deeper than party identification.

Lieberman seems to be benefiting from his relationships in a body where he has served since 1988. The “old guard” (in the words of one senior Senate Democratic aide) has aligned behind him — willing to forgive and forget. The newer members — at least 12 Democratic Senators have been elected in 2006 and 2008 alone — as well as the liberal wing of the party are much more upset about Lieberman’s apostasy and want to see him punished.

These are the real reasons Sen. Lieberman is keeping his committee perks. Of course, the good ol’ boys can’t say that — at least not in so many words. Instead, you get this kind of talk:

Senator Harry Reid just spoke to reporters after the private caucus meeting with Dems over Joe Lieberman’s fate, and he confirmed it: Lieberman will not be stripped of his Homeland Security chairmanship, because the “vast majority” of the Democratic caucus wants him to stay.

“This was not a time for retribution,” Reid said, adding that “we’re moving forward.”

Lieberman was removed from the Environment and Public Works Committee, a largely meaningless punishment since it’s a topic (unlike Homeland Security) on which he has no differences with Dems.

Asked about liberal “anger” towards Lieberman, Reid said: “I pretty well understand anger. I would defy anyone to be more angry than I was.”

But he added: “If you will look at the problems that we face as a nation, is this a time we walk out of here saying boy did we get even?”

“I feel good about what we did today,” Reid said. “We’re moving forward.”

You do that, Sen. Reid. We out here in the netroots will be doing the same.

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