Monday, March 1, 2010


Indiana Senator Evan Bayh has decided to retire because the government doesn't work

anymore. He says politics are too partisan and the Senate isn't any fun. The Senator says

the system is broken and he can't see anyway to fix it; so he is calling it a day. Good riddance!

The weeping and gnashing of teeth among the punditocracy was heard across the fruited

plains. We are told this proves Washington is dysfunctional and dyspepsic. Bayh, who has

claimed to be a centrist and a moderate seems not to have found common ground with his

colleagues. Some say his retirement is proof the Democrats are too liberal, too inflexible,

and unable to build a governing coalition. In truth, Bayh was a DINO (Democrat in name

only). To quote Bill Maher "...he was a corporatist, not a centrist".

Bayh worked hard to kill healthcare reform and, in particular, any form of public option.

A public option would compete with private health insurance companies. And since his wife

sits on the board of one of the largest health insurance companies in the nation, it's no surprise

he has consistently been in opposition to healthcare reform. Bayh is more Republican than

Democrat. He loved spending money to go to war; but opposed spending it here at home to

help working Americans. Bayh's father, Birch, was a classic progressive Democrat of the

modern era, but his son traded on his father's good credit to support Wall Street, oppose new

regulations on banks, oppose a consumer protection agency for the financial world, oppose

gay marriage, oppose the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", supported the Patriot Act, torture,

Guantanamo, and pushed for immunity for telecom companies who illegally spied on their

customers at the governments request. In his case, the apple fell far from the tree. In no way,

shape, or form was he a Democrat. So, Bayh is taking his ball and going home because the boys

and girls won't play according to his rules or that's the story he's telling. Retiring when he did,

he took one last shot at his Democratic colleagues by keeping his decision secret. By doing so,

no other Democrat will have the time to gather the signatures necessary to run for his vacant

office in the party's primary. Thus, the Democrats of Indiana will have to pick someone to run

for his seat, which will automatically disadvantage that candidate. The Republicans will say

that he or she doesn't have popular support. They'll be accused of being a tool of Democratic

"bosses"; and at a time of high anti-incumbent fervor, he will be tarred as the consummate

insider. This was no oversight on Bayh's part. Thanks for nothing, Evan.

One political observer I talked to thinks there is a method in Bayh's madness. Follow me

here: He quits for now. Maybe he becomes a lobbyist or a commentator for Fox or goes

around as a political Cassandra declaring the whole system corrupt and in need of an outsider

to come in and fix it. Eventually, claiming a piece of moral high ground by being an ex-

politician who quit rather than put up with the status quo, he announces a primary challenge

to President Obama. It's not as farfetched as it sounds. But at that point, who would Bayh

appeal to? Where would his base be? He's certainly not in favor of change. He opposed

almost all the changes Obama proposed. He's not fiscally conservative since he voted to

support two wars, massive defense spending, tax cuts for the rich, and a Medicare drug

prescription program; none of which had any formula for staying within the budget. He can't

run on national security grounds as he supported an unnecessary and immoral war in Iraq

and voted to continue to fund an anemic effort in Afghanistan. He certainly can't run as a

populist since he was a source of obstruction to the most popular aspects of the healthcare

reform bill. So, what is Bayh...really?

The problem in Washington is not too much partisanship. The problem is not enough

partisanship. Obama panders to the regressives while ignoring his own base; daring them

to go somewhere else politically. Democrats wilt like hothouse orchids when the heat begins

to rise. There is no price to pay by any Democratic member of Congress for going against

the party. Say what you will about the Republicans, they punish those who buck the system

and thus maintain strong unity.

The filibuster, a useful tool in the Senate has recently turned into a serious problem in

their caucus. According to the Congressional Quarterly, this last year has been the most

partisan in Congress since 1953. The problem has been Republicans marching together in

lockstep, while Democrats break ranks to join them. The filibuster is now applied even to

procedural votes (votes to pass daily agendas, to take up issues on the floor, or votes to agree

to vote), which is unprecedented. Either the filibuster must be disallowed completely or it

must be limited to final passage of legislation. If not, this abuse will certainly continue.

The retirement of Evan Bayh is good news. He is not a centrist and he never was a

productive factor in legislative compromise. He did not compromise. He sided with

Republicans when it was in he and his wife's interest to do so. He is not a senator who led

by the power of his rhetoric, because he had little of substance to say. Can you think of a

singular memorable utterance ever to emerge from his lips? He is not going to be missed by

democratically-oriented citizens because his loyalties lay with Wall Street and corporate

America. Not even his own gum-chewing Hoosiers benefitted. He says the system is broken,

but offers no solutions except to quit. Perhaps the figure in modern politics he most represents

or resembles is the "former" governor of Alaska. If they both end up employed by Fox, I won't

be surprised. If so, they will have found their true calling in the lucrative world of

entertainment and propaganda that's been redefined and marketed as "news". Neither of

them are "statesmen" and neither of them have anything of real value to offer our suffering

nation. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

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