Those who wield the power are extreme Republican partisans, who have not been willing to compromise and reach across the aisle on anything (a theme taken from the K Street project). To rid Congress of these non-mainstream top dogs requires booting the entire team en masse, thus explaining why a vote for moderate Chafee -- no matter how well-deserved or intended -- is a vote for keeping the true nutjobs in power positions. As Krugman writes:
But while this principle [Sierra Club's "We choose people, not parties."] might once have made sense, it’s just naïve today. Given both the radicalism of the majority party’s leadership and the ruthlessness with which it exercises its control of the Senate, Mr. Chafee’s personal environmentalism is nearly irrelevant when it comes to actual policy outcomes; the only thing that really matters for the issues the Sierra Club cares about is the “R” after his name.Real change in policy and legislation will not occur until these zealots are tossed out of control. Yes, Chafee is a good guy regarding the environment as well as a number of other issues for that matter, but a vote for him is unfortunately just one more precious vote needed by the Dems to change majority control of key power positions.
The point is that those who cling to the belief that politics can be conducted in terms of people rather than parties — a group that also includes would-be centrist Democrats like Joe Lieberman and many members of the punditocracy — are kidding themselves.
We’re living in an age of one-letter politics, in which a politician’s partisan affiliation is almost always far more important than his or her personal beliefs. And those who refuse to recognize this reality end up being useful idiots for those, like President Bush, who have been consistently ruthless in their partisanship.
The Sierra Club is correct in theory (as they say, "we value performance above party affiliation"), but Krugman is right when considering the reality-based world as we've come to know it, in all it's ugliness and ruthlessness.