Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bye Bye Bayh

Evan Bayh, the junior Democratic senator from Indiana, announced that he is not, in fact, running for re-election after all. He cited the fact that nothing is getting done in Washington and also the partisanship on Capitol Hill as reasons for his retirement, plus the assertion that he doesn't like the job anymore. Some folks suspect that he's afraid of losing. Former senator Dan Coats, who in 1998 gave up the seat Bayh now holds (it also belonged to Bayh's father, the legendary Birch Bayh, until he lost in in 1980 to a little-known two-term congressman named Dan Quayle), recently announced his desire to get his old job back. Bayh apparently decided he'd retire rather than lose his seat to someone named Dan, like his father did. Some wonder if Bayh thinks he can't win after Scott Brown won his special Senate race in Massachusetts. (Note: Brown won because he was a regular guy with a pickup truck, a bodacious personality, and a sense of charisma, while his opponent was a frosty Irishwoman with all the warmth and charm of a Zamboni.)
It seems to me that incumbents of both parties are rushing to get out of Washington as quickly as possible. Bayh's announcement comes on the heels of the announcement of two House members, Republican Vernon Ehlers of Michigan and Democrat Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island. Democrats are likely to bear the brunt of the anti-incumbent movement in the midterm elections, since they hold large majorities in both houses of Congress. The current game plan for the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees is to blame the lack of progress on health care and a jobs bill on Republican obstructionism, but no less an authority the congressional pundit Amy Walter thinks that no one is likely to buy that argument. Besides, the "tea party" movement is largely generating the anti-incumbent wave and pushing an old-fashioned right-wing agenda of smaller government and equal rights for white people. As much as President Obama talks about transforming America, it's worth noting that Fox News is riding high in the ratings, voters flee government social program proposals like vampires from a cross (to cop a phrase from retired columnist Donald Kaul), and gun sales are through the roof. And there is no liberal equivalent to the tea party movement afoot, or at least no liberal equivalent that's getting coverage from the media. The direction of America in 2010 looks a lot like the direction Ronald Reagan set it on after getting elected President in 1980.
Oh yeah, Patrick Kennedy. The younger son of the late Ted Kennedy says he hopes to pursue other interests. (Which I think means, he wants to move back to Massachusetts and challenge Scott Brown in 2012.) When the 112th Congress convenes in January, Congress will not only include fewer Democrats - far fewer Democrats - it will not have a Kennedy in it for the first time since 1947. Big deal. Washington has no more Bushes, no more Doles, and soon will have no more Kennedys. And, no more Bayhs. The republic will survive, just as it got along fine without the Adamses.

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