Washington Establishmentarians in the National Press Corps define a moderate Democrat as one who is willing to work with Republicans to kill Democratic initiatives.
A moderate Republican is one who smiles when he calls Democrats cowards, traitors, and socialists.
By these definitions, Evan Bayh is a moderate.
There are eleven, count them, eleven incumbent Senators who won’t be running for re-election this fall. This AP story leads off with the implication that they’re all moderates, exasperated and worn-out by their noble efforts to bring about bi-partisan solutions to the major problems facing the nation being thwarted by the rabid fringe elements in the Senate---with the further implication, of course, that these rabid fringe elements are mainly Democrats. Right Wing Republican nuts like Inhofe, DeMint, Bunning, Coburn, and Shelby are a quiet, unassuming lot, who generally keep to themselves, unlike that wild man, Bernie Sanders, who frightens all and sundry with his rabid fringe elementary ways.
In fact, the article mentions very few of the soon to be ex-senators by name, but two who do get named are Chris Dodd and Judd Gregg. Now Dodd is in fact a moderate, but like all the true moderates in the Democratic caucus he is thought of as a liberal by the establishment types, including the ones in his own party. And Gregg is a loud and proud conservative.
I don’t know why Gregg isn’t running again. But his decision to get out of the Senate was made a long time ago. He’d have been gone early last year, in fact, having accepted President Obama’s offer to make him Secretary of Commerce. He changed his mind in a snit, apparently deciding he’d be happier spending his last two years in the Senate joining his fellow Republicans in gleeful unanimous obstructionism, not even bothering to try to meet the Establishment’s definition of a moderate Republican by smiling when he insults and taunts the President.
Dodd is a cancer survivor who was facing a desperate race for re-election for reasons that had little to do with ideology. His decision not to run again was personal, practical, and unlike Evan Bayh’s calculated to help the Democratic Party. It’s now more likely that Connecticut will continue to have one real Democratic Senator and that Senator won’t be a “moderate,” which is fine with Chris Dodd.
Here’s a list of the other retiring Senators, only one of whom gets named in the AP story:
Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Ted Kaufman (Del.) and Roland Burris (Ill.), Kit Bond (Mo.), George Lemieux (Fla.), George Voinovich (Ohio), Sam Brownback (Kans.) and Jim Bunning (Ky.)
Dorgan, Kaufman, and Burris are Democrats. The other five are Republicans.
Kaufman and Burris are interim appointments. Kaufman has been filling Joe Biden’s seat and Burris Barack Obama’s. I don’t believe Kaufman ever had any plans to run and in fact I think he was appointed with the understanding that he wouldn’t. Burris, who is not a moderate anyway, was appointed by the corrupt and disgraced ex-governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich as a poke in the eye to Barack Obama and the Illinois State Legislator and he has never been able to live that down. His not running has nothing to do with fringe elements in the party and everything to do with his being seen as a joke.
Dorgan’s announcement came after he took a surprise tumble in polls of North Dakota voters who have apparently decided they’d rather be represented by a real Republican rather than by a “moderate” Democrat who all too often votes like a Republican. It’s hard to see how this can be blamed on fringe elements in the Democratic Party unless the voters in North Dakota are thinking, “Too bad about the way old Byron’s letting himself get pushed around by all those socialists. I guess the only way we’ll have a moderate Democrat representing us from now on is by electing a Right Wing Republican.”
As for the Republicans, Bunning and Brownback are not by any stretch moderates, while Voinovich, who once upon a time did have some credentials as if not a true moderate than as less than an ideologically rigid conservative, but he’s been held to the Republican Party’s strict obstructionist line as ruthlessly every other member of the caucus.
Meanwhile, down in Florida, for a while it looked as though Lemieux would be replaced by Charlie Crist, who like Voinovich is less than an ideological conservative, but now he’s on his way to losing the Republican primary to the very conservative Marco Rubio and in desperation Crist has taken to accusing Rubio of not being conservative enough.
AP’s article includes some quotes from one of the true moderate Republicans who’ve served in the Senate in the last decade, the former Republican Arlen Specter, who was driven from the Party by the conservatives who run the show and who very well may lose his bid for re-election to Right Wing Republican Pat Toomey.
John McCain gets a mention as someone facing a tough re-election fight, but it’s not mentioned that it’s because of a serious primary challenge from his right.
Getting down to it, then, the AP story contains no evidence that any moderates are being driven from Congress by polarizing elements within their own party. An objective look at what’s actually going on in Congress reveals no evidence that any moderate Democrats, however you define them, are retiring or even in facing election-time trouble because of pressures from the left to conform ideologically. All of that is happening among Republicans where even conservatives, let alone “moderates” are being pushed farther and farther to the Right.
The article is another routine example of the sort of Insider Journalism whose first rule is that no matter what the issue and no matter what is actually happening no explicit blame can be place upon Republicans without placing equal or more blame upon Democrats, preferably more. Both parties must be at fault or nobody is, in which case it’s just one of those things, you know?
Beyond that, however, the article is premised upon the reporters’ accepting Evan Bayh’s stated reasons for retiring at face value.
There is no parade of “moderates” marching out of Congress in a mixture of sadness and frustration at the polarization of there. What there is is Evan Bayh, one of the three most conservative Democrats in the Senate, who has spent the last year doing everything he can think of to sabotage President Obama, abandoning the people in Indiana who voted for him and would have been glad to vote for him again and leaving them wide open to the possibility that they will be represented in the Senate by another Republican conservative.
If Bayh believes that what the Senate needs is more moderation and bipartisan cooperation, the best way for him to help with that would be to stick around.
Bayh says it’s impossible to get anything done in Washington anymore, but he’s awfully vague about what he himself would like to see get done. Based on his performance over the last year, it looks as though all he wants to get done is for health care reform to fail. He’s been in a position to get a lot done. He just needed to cooperate with President Obama instead of giving aid and comfort to Republican obstructionists.
Bayh is not resigning because he’s tired of the in-fighting. He may be tired of losing some of those fights. But the truth of it is that he has started a lot of them himself.
He may be getting out of the Senate in order to position himself for a run for President in 2012 as a “moderate” and political “outsider” who bears no responsibility for the the failure or the unpopular success of President Obama and liberal Democrats in passing their leftist agenda.
That seems too ridiculous for anyone but a self-deluded, self-serving narcissist to believe. And Bayh himself has denied he has plans to run…in 2012.
I think it’s more likely that he’s angling to get himself elected governor again and distancing himself from Washington, coming back home to Indiana, would be the smart move. He may still have Presidential ambitions, but for 2016, when he could then run as an incumbent governor and a Midwestern favorite son. But I’m just guessing, and wildly at that.
What it really sounds like is that Bayh just got bored.
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