Evan Bayh and the Instruments of Inertia (February 20, 2010)

I hate to see Indiana Senator Evan Bayh go. I really do; because the reason he’s leaving means he’s the only man for the job.

In an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, Bayh noted that the American political system is “dysfunctional,” riddled with “brain-dead partisanship” and permanent campaigning.

Republicans are rejoicing because Bayh’s departure makes possible the gain of another GOP seat in the Senate in a Tea Party induced backlash to the failure of this administration and this Congress to govern effectively.  And, since Bayh is denying that he will run for President, it removes a highly regarded opponent from this list of potential challengers.

Problems abound in Washington and Republican Talk Radio dominates the airwaves pinning the woes of government on the backs of Democrats. But the problem with today’s federal government is not the Democrats. Nor is it the Republicans: it’s the way in which the Democrats and Republicans are functioning as a unit—which is to say, they’re not. Watching Washington in action is like spending a day with unruly three-year old twins—mischievous, irresponsible, meddlesome, undisciplined, whiny, and prone to blame the other. (If only we could leave 535 dry-cleaning bags around the Capitol our problems would be solved. That was mean. I’m sorry.)

Bayh is frustrated and if he’s telling the truth about why he’s going to leave the Senate then I believe him when he says he won’t run for president. Being President in this climate would make no sense. He’d simply be ringmaster for the three-ring circus that is the Federal Government.  He’d be crippled and handcuffed by the same instruments of inertia he eschews today.

Legislating today, as Bayh noted in the MSNBC interview, requires constant campaigning.  This fact means that the way in which a senator works with his counterparts and every vote must be viewed with an eye towards the next election.  If the Democrat Senator works too closely with GOP legislators he risks alienating his partisan constituency and subsequently losing his seat in the Senate.

So I really wish he’d stay. I wish he’d stay and lead by example. He could help reform the process by practicing what he preaches.  The Senate is not going to change by itself and it’s not going to change through Tea Party rallies. It’s not going to change by cleverly worded op-eds or radio and tv’s long list of clanging bells. It will only change from within.

What does he have to lose? Bayh can relinquish his Senate seat to the next partisan pol capable of deluding Indianans into believing he’s different, or he can turn himself into the Rogue Senator whose sole objective is to demonstrate change in action. If his colleagues render him impotent or the good folks in Indiana are offended by his bipartisan efforts at reforming the system he’ll simply be voted out of office.  So there’s nothing at risk except the Senate seat he’s already giving up.

If you are inclined to believe that there is a surrogate for Bayh capable of making a difference; and if you are a willing participant in allowing yourself to be a victim of what you perceive to be the direct consequences of a Democratic majority, then you can rejoice in his departure.

The reality, though, is that the current system castrates every candidate at the swearing in ceremony.  I only wish Bayh had the balls to stay.

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Published in: on February 20, 2010 at 9:22 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

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