Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 17, 2010

BAYH NEEDS BETTER TALKING POINTS.... The NYT's Adam Nagourney has an item today that hints at a meme that the media establishment will be eager to embrace: when Democrats were swept into office, they misread their mandate.

Some of the party's least progressive leaders seem anxious to help.

Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, said the atmosphere was a serious threat to Democrats. "I do think there's a chance that Congressional elites mistook their mandate," Mr. Bayh said. "I don't think the American people last year voted for higher taxes, higher deficits and a more intrusive government. But there's a perception that that is what they are getting."

Perhaps. But wouldn't that "perception," which is clearly wrong, be easier to correct if leading senators like Evan Bayh were more forcefully setting the record straight?

I obviously didn't hear the full exchange between Bayh and Nagourney; maybe the Hoosier offered a strong defense of the party that didn't make the article. But the quote is a bit of a mess. After all, Obama and congressional Dems cut taxes with the recovery package; the huge deficits were inherited from Bush/Cheney fiscal irresponsibility; and the government isn't becoming more "intrusive," especially when compared to the GOP officials who endorsed warrantless surveillance of Americans' communications.

There are, no doubt, widespread misperceptions about the public policy landscape. What Republicans lack in reason and governing abilities they make up for with an unparalleled ability to get people to believe things that aren't true. But isn't that why it's up to prominent Democratic lawmakers like Evan Bayh to help highlight the truth?

As for the bigger picture, I'm not entirely sure what the larger point -- the "mistook their mandate" tack -- even means. Democrats presented voters with a policy agenda, and the electorate handed the party the reins. Since then, despite unprecedented obstructionism from Republicans, Dems have gone about trying to pass the agenda the party ran on.

Isn't that what majority parties are supposed to do? How would Bayh have preferred to see Democrats govern in 2009?

Steve Benen 8:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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And what does Bayh think the Democrats should do?

A half-assed stimulus that leaves unemployment at ten percent?

Health care reform that doesn't change what the insurance companies are doing leaves tens of millions of Americans uninsured?

"Reform" of Wall Street that doesn't reform anything?

Or would Bayh have us believe that everything was hunky-dorey for the past eight years and that Democrats should continue with Bush's policies -- the ones that Bayh either voted for or did nothing to stop?

This . . . person is doing more to promote the Republican agenda than the stupid, insane actual Republicans are doing.

When is Obama going to go on the attack and leave advocates of conservative economics the with the same kind of credibility as believers in UFO abductions?

Posted by: SteveT on January 17, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Evan Bayh is example one of why Democrats can't govern. He doesn't want to.

Posted by: JMG on January 17, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that voters are unhappy with the Democrats doesn't say *anything* about whether they approve or disapprove of the Democratic agenda. It is only an indication that things are bad (the economy, conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq, etc.) and that whoever is in power will get blamed if they don't start getting better soon.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on January 17, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

And this scion of the Indiana Dems' royal family... this man who occupies his father's Senate seat... this guy who's been in political office for 22 of the past 23 years... somehow believes he's NOT a member of the Congressional elites?

Posted by: jvwalt on January 17, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

And what does Bayh think the Democrats should do?

Reinforce the winger talking points that will get Bayh reelected by the least informed and the most resentful people in Indiana.

If the economy completely crashes as a result, so be it. The only goal is for Bayh to be reelected.

Posted by: estelle on January 17, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

WTF are "Congressional elites"?

Posted by: navamske on January 17, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

I am not a violent person but there are a handful of pols that give me the urge to slap them silly-- Bayh is one of them. (Lieberman is at the top of the list.) It'll never happen, of course, but they have a very special way of making everyone crazy.

Posted by: naughty girl on January 17, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

These "elites"- i.e. every member of congress- ought to take a solitary stroll (no aides, toadies, bodyguards) through the seamier neighborhoods in their fiefdoms.

People are HURTING out here, you bespoke suited scions of privilege. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 17, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

The press loves to project local politics onto the national stage. Nagourney is trying to position himself as the new dean of DC pundits.

Posted by: Bob Johnson on January 17, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

It's sad, watching the Dim-ocrats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If their stupidity and complacence in the face of the non-negotiable opposition of the Republicans ends on on Tuesday costing them everything they were elected to do, they can look in the mirror when seeking out someone to blame.

Evan Bayh isn't even a Dim-ocrat - he's just dim. Proof of the advisability of passing a law that prevents offspring of politicians from aspiring to public office, since they so seldom live up to it.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 17, 2010 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Evan Bayh is a fucking republican. He and the conservadems are just GOP double agents.

I understand the whole "big tent" aspect of the Democratic Party, but its members need to understand and uphold its central planks. Bayh and others are busy at work with crowbars underneath the party platform.

I'de like to think that Bayh gets raked over the coals by this, but party leadership is too beholden to him and the other conservatives to do anything.

For me, the Democratic Party is fast becoming irrelevant to my interests and beliefs.

Posted by: bdop4 on January 17, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

.... a meme that the media establishment will be eager to embrace.

Bingo. Karen Hughes, one of Dubya's advisers, was on Meet The Press this morning using that exact Bayh quote. And of course, she emphasized a couple of times it was from a "democrat". When she said the name Bayh, I thought ahh now it makes sense.

Posted by: oh well on January 17, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Bayh is still pissed that he wasn't tapped for VP. In regards to being a Democrat or Republican, he'll do whatever it takes to stay in a political office. I suspect the misunderstanding in the misunderstood mandate was more about electing a person of color......

Posted by: DTR on January 17, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

I'll channel my inner Yglesias and make the point that Bayh has agency here. He can make proposals, vote on them and shape the agenda. He has the power as one of a hundred senators to actually govern in the way he sees fit. Hypocrite.

Posted by: danimal on January 17, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

The D's didn't misread the mandate-they read it loud and clear, and said "Fuck that!" immediately turning to face their corporate puppetmasters and shrieking, "Show me da money!"

As mentioned above, they don't want to govern; they are perfectly comfortable whining "The R's wouldn't let us do the right thing. If only we had n more Congrescritters."

Posted by: elbrucce on January 17, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Seems like a whole lot of crying from the folks who successfully used such memes as "the GOP wants to privatize SS", "Tax cuts for the rich", "the war in Iraq is lost", "the financial crises is due to all of Bush's deregulation", "oil prices hitting 140 were due to Bush taking care of his oil buddies", etc.

Damn...it hurts when the tactics the left employed so well during the last administration comes back to bite them in the ass.

Having one of your own say things trying to save his political life is just one of the prices to be paid when the opposition controls the message. The message could not have been co-oped by the right so quickly had the Dems not made so many mistakes.

Making Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid the leaders in congress were the first mistakes. Second was electing a President running on a platform of unobtainable promises. The GOP in congress is the least of the Democrats problems at this point.

Posted by: manapp99 on January 17, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

For Bayh, a scion of an Indiana political "family," to use the word "elitist" about other DC Democrats is laughable.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 17, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

What put Obama into office was the promise of universal health care and the clearly expressed desire of the voters to end the wars and raise taxes on the rich.

Posted by: Marnie on January 17, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

So Bayh doesn't think voters want "higher taxes, higher deficits and a more intrusive government"?

Then why the fuck did he spend the first eight years of the goddamned decade helping George W. Bush foist that shit on the rest of us?


Posted by: Chris on January 17, 2010 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Bayh has no idea what the citizens of Indiana are concerned about. I responded to an email from his office and received, over two weeks later, a response that simply regurgitated what had irked me in the first place.
He is plainly trying to place himself in an area that he thinks will become vital in the next year or so so that his vote will be courted; not for any advantage to Indiana, but his ego obviously took a few hits when Biden got the VP slot.
As to why he imagines people will be so worried about the deficit/higher taxes/government "intrusion":
1. Bayh is a Republican in all but name; one of the old-fashioned Rockefeller type Republicans, you know, back when Republicans actually were against deficits, not just Democratic ones.
2. He and his wife are obscenely rich. His income has always been based on being the son of Birch Bayh; so I would imagine he has just a little bit of that entitlement syndrome we hear about.
3. Substitute "regulations" and then see if it makes more sense.
There's that line about one's offspring suffering for the "sins of the fathers"; if it's true I pity his poor kids.

Posted by: Doug on January 17, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

I''ll trade you a Birch for an Evan, and toss in a couple of moon pies & an RC Cola, too.

Posted by: Churchyard on January 17, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

The foul language on this post must end.

Posted by: russ in nc on January 17, 2010 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't think the American people last year voted for higher taxes, higher deficits and a more intrusive government. But there's a perception that that is what they are getting."

Perception my ass. Huge taxes in the healthcare bill, quadrupled deficits, government motors, bank bailouts, govt. controlled student loans, and a takeover of 1/6th of the economy in healthcare with no real reform, just sellouts to big pharma and big insurance.

I am an independent who voted for obama in hopes that he would clean up the D.C. cesspool. That's what I thought change was. Turns out that D.C. is now a cesspool on steroids between Chicago and D.C. insiders, special interests, closed door deals, bribes, and untold congressional corruption. That is a reality, not a perception.

Posted by: Disgusted on January 18, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I live in Indiana, evidently what some of your readers consider a backwards state full of inbred imbeciles. I have voted for Evan Bayh in the past but will never do so again. He talks like a fiscal conservative and votes like a liberal.
We have, in fact, gotten nothing but higher taxes, bigger deficits, and a more intrusive government.
Bayh has to go. His voting record doesn't match his rhetoric.

Posted by: Smokey on January 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

My question is, "What deulsional universe does Steve Benen live in?
"I don't think the American people last year voted for higher taxes, higher deficits and a more intrusive government. But there's a perception that that is what they are getting."
"But wouldn't that "perception," which is clearly wrong, be easier to correct if leading senators like Evan Bayh were more forcefully setting the record straight?"

First, let's poll the average US citizen and ask them if they want higher taxes and deficits and more government intrusion. How many SANE Americans would want that?
Then lets look at reality where Democrats are cramming a "health care" bill down our throats that will take over 1/6 of the US economy and will be paid for with either higher taxes or deficits.
Only an INSANE person would say that what this bill will do (higher taxes, deficits, intrusion)is a matter of "perception" that needs to be corrected.
Please stay in your parallel delusional universe until we see the biggest landslide change in Congress this November.

Posted by: Marvin on January 18, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK
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