The Perfect, The Good and The Enemy

Steve Benen:

Remember: nothing becomes law in this Congress unless Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman approve. Literally, nothing. That's not an encouraging legislative dynamic, and it's a huge impediment to progressive lawmaking.

It's not within President Obama's power to change that. It's not within Harry Reid's and Nancy Pelosi's power to change that.

What we have, unfortunately, are Conservadem obstructionists who are willing to stand in the way of good policy simply because they can. And we have a progressive caucus that is rightfully unwilling to filibuster good things for the sake of blocking some objectionable things.

In other words, Lieberman, Nelson, Stupak, Landrieu and the others merrily block legislation that will help save lives simply because they're willing to kill bills regardless of the good they'll do. It's transparent posturing devoid of morality or reason. Lieberman, for example, filibustered the bill as vengeance against progressives -- and was willing to let reform die because of it. I can't imagine lawmakers like Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden and Al Franken filibustering major subsidies for poor and middle class Americans in order to settle a score or to demand perfect legislation. It simply isn't within the capacity of most progressives to behave like this -- and I'm glad, even if it means we don't get perfectly progressive laws.

President Obama has a respectable list of successes so far. Successes that have done- and will do a lot of good for a lot of people. In order to achieve these successes, however, he has been forced to worm his way around enemies as unprincipled as the Republicans and Conservadems. So what we have are achievements that are, to some extent, imperfect. Imperfections proportional to the power of the obstructionists.

So when senators like Lieberman are willing to filibuster for childish reasons, it stands to reason that it's going to negatively impact anything that requires Joe Lieberman's vote. It's a shame that the stimulus couldn't have been bigger, or that the public option couldn't be saved, but I don't believe these are reasons to walk away from the other good things in a given bill. And I can only imagine the screeching from both the president's right and left flanks if these successes had been abandoned in lieu of refusing to compromise.

By the way, there's nothing wrong with taking a tough stand for or against what we believe in. But until we're willing to be as immoral and unreasonable as Joe Lieberman, our leverage will be limited. And I'm happy to suffer from a lack of Lieberman obstructionism. We can win without it.