Harry Reid badly miscalculated when he tried to punish Joe Lieberman for supporting John McCain and for speaking at the Republican Convention. In the end the Senate majority leader had to stand by Senator Lieberman's side before the cameras while Joe smilingly explained that he had been given everything he wanted. This week Sen. Reid appears to have done it again, putting his foot down that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich could not succeed in appointing Roland Burris to fill the remaining two years of Barack Obama's senate seat, as it now appears he may.
There are two questions with which I am not interested today: First, I don't care to go after Harry Reid except on one particular point. Secondly and more importantly, there is a legitimate issue as to whether Roland Burris is likely to be a good senator, but this issue is mitigated by the fact that a) it's impossible to know such a thing for certain and b) in two years the voters will be able to make the choice for themselves.
I think that the issue with Harry Reid here is an attitude that party bosses in Washington are entitled to power in state politics. On the right the idea of "states' rights" is a shibboleth (not an incoherent one) for conservativism shading off into libertarianism shading off into racist and fascist elements. But progressive political reform also confronts the centralization of power and loss of respect for voters.
The voters of Connecticut, for example, took the really extraordinary step of re-electing Joe Lieberman as an independent after he had lost the Democratic senate primary: as clear a political mandate as one could have. You're welcome to be his ally, or not. In the Illinois case, Gov. Blagojevich is not only under no indictment as this is written, he also continues to be the democratically elected governor of Illinois. His right to a legal process is absolute. The state legislature may or may not be able to impeach him. But all the party leadership in Washington needs to remember is this: the Illinois state government will send their choice for senator when they have determined who that will be. There is a process, and no reason to think that the process needs help. Just as an independent senator doesn't need guidance from party elders.