I like Steve Benen and used to read his blog, The Carpetbagger Report, regularly. I still occasionally read his posts at his current home, The Washington Monthly’s Political Animal — but I have to seriously question this post from earlier today, bemoaning Democrats’ perceived inability (unwillingness?) to enforce “party loyalty.” An excerpt:
Political parties that expect loyalty from caucus members tend to be more effective and have more success advancing their agenda. And as a rule, party loyalty isn’t the result of polite pleas and gracious appeals — politicians tend to be more loyal to their party when they know their party has the means and the will to punish them. If those who are disloyal face no consequences — indeed, if they’re rewarded despite their recalcitrance — it encourages less fidelity.
Case in point, per Benen, citing Matt Yglesias:
The Republicans do this the right way. The Senate Republican caucus is organized, like the House caucuses of both parties, like a partisan political organization whose objective is to advance the shared policy objectives of the party.
Steve and Matt have this much right: GOP congressional leaders are very effective at maintaining party cohesion/vote purity. Their ability to govern, on the other hand — based on six recent years — remains open to question. In fact, I’d argue the ability of any Party to govern well correlates directly with its ability to accomodate dissenting voices on major issues — not on its ability to quash dissent.
That’s life in the Big Tent, gentlemen. And if you want your Party to stay in the Big Tent, then your Party probably needs to reject your advice and adopt an attitude closer to what Sen. Dodd said (and you dismissed) when Dodd was asked about Sen. Lieberman’s latest act of defiance:
“People are going to be all over the place,” [Dodd] said when asked if Lieberman should be punished. “The idea that people are going to be reprimanded because somehow they have a different point of view than someone else is ridiculous. That isn’t going to happen.”
That’s pretty damn close to a “ditto” of what Newt Gingrich said earlier this week, in the context of an entirely different circumstance.
(Two bits of irony: First, Gingrich was once the paragon of enforcing party loyalty. Second, that last link is to an Andrew Sullivan post for his “Yglesias Award” nominations, named after the same Yglesias cited above, during an apparent moment of non-Yglesias-ness.)