Mr. Bayh Says Nay

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

“Mr. Bayh?”
Ahhh, that familiar rhyming couplet that so often echoed across the floor of the Senate when Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh responded to a call for his vote in the affirmative.
But last month, the moderate and pragmatic Mr. Bayh shook the political world with a loud and resounding “Nay.” Nay to a run for a third term. Nay to his Democratic colleagues who desperately need every vote they can get in the upper chamber. Nay to politics as usual.
“For some time, I’ve had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should. There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress; too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the people’s business is not getting done,” Bayh said in stern, stinging remarks announcing that he would abandon his bid for reelection in November. Ouch.
These are not the words of a man abandoning a race he could not win. On the contrary, Bayh had $13 million in the bank and was cruising into the campaign season with a double digit lead in the polls over Republican challenger Dan Coats, the former senator who has a well-earned reputation as a partisan hardliner.
Bayh’s announcement and his condemnation of the partisan miasma that has engulfed Capitol Hill in recent years should be a wakeup call for the body politic. Sadly it won’t be. Bayh’s succeeded in getting the attention of the partisan leadership, but the focus was more on the political ramifications of his pending departure and less on what it says about the institution. Many in politics missed the point: Bayh’s departure is more than a loss for the Democratic party, it’s a loss for the Hoosiers he represents and for the nation.
Perhaps it is his experience as a governor, where results are demanded and measured, that fueled his frustration. He is not alone here. Of the eleven Senate incumbents that have decided to retire this year, three others — Republicans Christopher “Kit” Bond of Missouri, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and George Voinovich of Ohio — also are former governors.
The point here is that politics and winning elections is not all that matters. As Bayh said: “Running for the sake of winning an election, just to remain in public office, is not good enough.” Lawmakers should be focused on running the country, not running their campaigns.
Bayh is not the first lawmaker to leave Washington in disgust, confirming the fears of many Americans that “politics is broken.” But that message rings truer when it comes from a popular and accomplished centrist politician with a history of moderation and bipartisanship.
America needs more Mr. Bayh’s, not less

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