One of the weird things about Sen. Evan Bayh's (D-Ind.) sudden decision to quit the Senate, and frag it as dysfunctional on the way out the door, is that I'm having a hard time trying to figure out what the Senate did to make Bayh so unhappy.
Bayh wanted a less effective stimulus package and he got a less effective stimulus package.
Bayh didn't think that the public option was worth fighting for and so the health care reform package doesn't have a public option.
Bayh wanted to go slow on EFCA and so now EFCA is all but slowed to a dead halt.
Bayh didn't want to pass the cap and trade bill and the cap and trade bill didn't get passed.
By any appreciable measure, Evan Bayh got precisely what he wanted out of these key policy debates. And yet now, he's slagging the Senate for being bogged down in hyperpartisanship, and defaming his liberal colleagues, who either lost these policy debates honorably or actively worked to accommodate his centrist whims. It really does not make a lick of sense.
But still! Bayh has beef with his colleagues. Wouldn't it be valuable to maybe clarify what his grievances are, and point out the people who've dumped so much hyperpartisan sand in his BVDs? James Fallows offers Bayh a "constructive suggestion":
Do you really care about the partisanship that is ruining public life and that, as you said, has driven you from the Senate, Mr. Bayh? Then why not use the fact that you are still in the U.S. Senate for most of another year -- a platform 99.999% of Americans will never occupy -- and apply all the power you can to advance causes you care about. What is holding you back?
Unlike everyone else up for election this year, you don't have to worry how this or that bout of truth-telling will look on Election Day. Let 'em bitch! You don't need an interest group to endorse you or a civic club to applaud you any more. Do you think hyperpartisanship is destroying the Senate? Why not call out people -- by name, by specific hypocritical move -- when you see them doing what they should be ashamed of? I guarantee that the press would eat this up. Why not a ten-month public seminar, through the rest of this year, on who is doing what, and how it could be different? Do you object to personal "holds" on nominations? Make it an issue! You have an idea of some issue where Republicans and Democrats might agree? Be specific about it and see what you can do. Again, if I know anything about the press and the melodrama of public life, I know you could turn it to your advantage -- and the public's, Mr. Smith style.
The only thing about Fallows' idea, is that it sounds like a lot of work and a lot of taking personal stands and a lot of being willing to bravely articulate a case. And Evan Bayh is just not that into any of that. The only thing, in fact, that could possibly be animating Bayh's rage against the Senate is it's failure to create a the special bipartisan deficit commission that Bayh wanted. Bayh supported the commission for the same reason that all of its most fervent supporters did: it was a means to outsource responsibility and insulate lawmakers from making tough choices.
The point was: he didn't want to do a lot of working and taking stands and articulating solutions then. So why would Bayh start doing the hard stuff now?