Yesterday evening, reflecting on what he called the "looming landslide" for Scott Brown, Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan characterized the Democratic party as "a clapped out, gut-free lobbyist machine." And right on time, here's Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), sounding the clarion call for timidity:
"There's going to be a tendency on the part of our people to be in denial about all this," Bayh told ABC News, but "if you lose Massachusetts and that's not a wake-up call, there's no hope of waking up."
"The only we (sic) are able to govern successfully in this country is by liberals and progressives making common cause with independents and moderates," Bayh said. "Whenever you have just the furthest left elements of the Dem party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country -- that's not going to work too well."
It's worth pointing out just how detached from reality Bayh is on this regard. The White House, armed with its bicameral Democratic majorities, spent the entire calendar year of 2009 vainly attempting to govern by moving its policies ever-rightward. In fact, the administration has gone much further than attempt to find "common cause with independents and moderates" -- it has strained itself to find common cause with Republicans! But if Bayh thinks that the wake-up call is for Democrats to continue to do what they've been doing all year, then it's Bayh who's somnambulating.
The thorny facts are these: The White House and Congressional Democrats set out at the beginning of the year to pass an economic stimulus package. They strained themselves to moderate the bill. The result was a less effective stimulus that didn't earn a shred of bipartisan support. And the public, as a result, has soured on the stimulus package.
The White House and Congressional Democrats set out at the beginning of the year with a promise to fully redeem the generosity of taxpayers, who charitably bailed out Wall Street after its own cascading series of catastrophic mistakes nearly decimated the economy. They've since strained themselves to moderate their efforts: leaving huge loopholes in derivatives reform measures, putting forth very little effort to ensure the CFPA won't be defanged, and assenting to Ben Bernanke's continued rule of the Federal Reserve -- despite his studied disinterest in solving the nation's unemployment crisis. The emerging consensus is that Obama seems to be a sell-out. And the public, as a result, has soured on the Democrats' approach to the economy.
The whole notion that the problem the Democrats face is the inability or unwillingness of progressives to find common cause with moderates is especially idiotic viewed through the prism of health care reform. Progressives have been accommodating moderates all year long. Single-payer was removed from the bargaining table at the outset of the debate. As the year wended on, the public option was removed as well -- it was downgraded to an opt-in public option. Then, that was removed from the table. Medicare buy-in was removed from the table. The Stupak amendment, which was inserted to forge common cause with conservative Christians, was added to the mix. Finally, health care reform became: "Whatever Joe Lieberman is willing to accept."
Think about this: the public option was supported by a huge majority of the public. At times, 70 percent of the public supported it. Did 70 percent of the population vote for Barack Obama? No! The public option was an idea that found common cause with progressives, moderates and McCain voters. Congressional Democrats, with filibuster-proof supermajorities, could not manage to fight for -- let alone pass -- a bill with something broadly supported by massive swaths of the public.
And so the public, predictably, has soured on health care reform. (And Democrats know that a cross-section of generic opposition to health care reform is against it solely on the grounds that it is not progressive enough -- this, they believe, is "good news!")
So, let's accept the fact that Bayh can't possibly believe what he is saying. Instead, allow me to make the needed translation from Party Hack into English: what Bayh is signaling here is that it's time for individual Democrats to abandon their governing principles and save their own skins electorally. That's the wake-up call: SAVE YOURSELVES. Don't do anything without absolute political cover. Place your political preservation ahead of the country.
Naturally, the public will continue to sour on this, because the public would like the people they voted for, in droves, to at least attempt to deliver on their promises. Unfortunately, Bayh wants his party to veer sharply in the "clapped out" and "gut free" direction.
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