But that's not what we have.
The Democratic Party, particularly the actual elected congressional delegation and the leadership of the party in the two houses, is so washed out, so gutless, so calculating, and so self-serving, that it hardly rates as a second party.
Because of this, the role of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, recently re-elected by the voters of Connecticut while running as an independent after losing his own party's nomination to an upstart anti-war candidate, Ned Lamont, is dangerous in the extreme.
Lieberman, who won re-election by stealing the votes of Connecticut's Republicans from the GOP's official candidate (Lieberman only won about a third of the Democratic vote), has been a closet Republican for years. He was a Republican in all but name when he ran as Al Gore's vice presidential partner in 2000, and since helping that campaign go down in flames has been one of George Bush's most stalwart supporters in Congress.
Let's look at the Lieberman record:
Absolute and wholly uncritical support for Israel's right-wing governments and for Israel's most incendiary and repressive policies towards the Palestinians.
Wholehearted support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and for continuing U.S. military involvement in that unmitigated disaster.
Full support for Bush's criminal policies of torture, kidnapping and stripping away of Americans' historic right to habeas corpus.
Full support for the Patriot Act and its even worse offspring, Patriot II.
Advocate, along with Lynn Cheney, of government intrusion into universities, and of the undermining of academic freedom, in the name of rooting out alleged "traitors" on university campuses who might have the temerity to question the official story on 9-11, or to challenge the so-called War on Terror.
Support, even, for former Attorney General John Ashcroft's mad plan for 20 million citizen spies in an Operation TIPS to spy on their neighbors.
Having Lieberman on your side in a narrowly-divided Democratic Senate is like having a nest of termites on a wooden ship.
As the crucial 51st vote that gives Democrats majority control of the Senate, Lieberman is able to hold the entire party hostage to his and Bush's crazy, right-wing, war-mongering and Constitution-shredding agenda. Absent any fighting spirit and any real principles, the Democratic Party leadership will give Lieberman everything he wants over the next two years, just to keep him on board and themselves in power.
It's a bad bargain.
America, and the Democratic Party, would be far better off if Democrats in the Senate gave Lieberman his marching orders: either support the party caucus on issues like the war, civil liberties and challenging Bush's unconstitutional abuses of power, or forget getting any key committee assignments. If he doesn't like it, he can come out of the closet and become an honest Republican.
So what if that means the Republicans take control of the Senate? They still won't be able to pass any legislation, with Democrats in control of the House. They still won't be able to overturn Democratic fillibusters. And in any event, a Democratic House and Senate won't be able to pass any progressive legislation in the next two years anyhow, with Bush in the White House, casting vetos and issuing his signing statements.
Lieberman in the GOP will be a nobody--a welterweight from a tiny state, out of touch with his own voters. He will be toast in his next election, when no Democrats will vote for him.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party will be cut free of one particularly noxious albatross.