Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 20, 2010

THE PREDICTABLE EVAN BAYH.... Sen. Evan Bayh's (D-Ind.) latest efforts to trash his party began in earnest over the weekend, complaining that "congressional elites" may have "mistook their mandate."

About two hours before the polls closed in Massachusetts, Bayh, who is up for re-election this year in a traditionally "red" state, was at it again, warning Democrats of "catastrophe." In the most predictable and self-serving response possible, the Indiana Democrat who is constantly urging his party to shift to the right is now insisting the party has to shift to the right.

"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."

What is the lesson of Massachusetts -- where Democrats face the prospects of losing a Senate seat they've held since 1952? For Senator Bayh the lesson is that the party pushed an agenda that is too far to the left, alienating moderate and independent voters. [...]

"The only we 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."

I have to assume the political establishment will quickly embrace this as the conventional wisdom -- Dems moved to the left, the public got nervous, so they lost Kennedy's Senate seat.

But I have a couple of follow-up questions for Bayh. First, when exactly did the furthest left elements of the Democratic Party start imposing their will on the rest of the country? I like to think I pay fairly close attention to current events, and I don't recall the furthest left elements of the Democratic Party calling the shots over the last year. Indeed, the furthest left elements of the Democratic Party tend to be livid at how little they've won, generating widespread frustrations at the party's base.

Second, what would Bayh recommend for the rest of the year? Not delivering on the platform Democrats promised voters? I can see the ads now: "Vote for me -- I abandoned my agenda, ignored my mandate, and ran for the hills at the first sign of trouble."

Look, Martha Coakley was an awful candidate who ran an awful campaign. This, coupled with public frustration over the economy and the pace of change in Washington became a toxic combination.

But to hear Bayh tell it, the electorate will reward Democrats if the party gives up on the agenda that got them elected -- and gave them the largest majorities in a generation -- and simply becomes Republican-lite. That seems like very bad advice.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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I have an old printer that occasionally turns itself off for no reason when I‘m trying to print something. Once when I already was running late it turned itself off for the third time in ten minutes. In frustration, I slammed my fist against the wall.

Not my finest moment. When I got over my tantrum, I realized that I had hurt (but fortunately not injured) my hand and that I had put a hole in the drywall. Meanwhile, I had done nothing to make the printer work better.

When the independents who voted for Brown get over their tantrum, they’ll feel just as stupid as I did. Unfortunately, they’ll have to live with their mistake for six years.

But I’m hopeful hearing that the White House, with their “Buckle Up” campaign, plans to (finally) push back against Republican obstructionism and quit acting like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football. When your house is on fire, you don’t seek a “middle ground” with a guy who says that what you need to do is pour gasoline on the fire. You don’t waste time convincing someone who is demanding “absolute proof” that your house is on fire. And you don’t bother to argue with the guy who tells you that a fire is a good thing.

We’ll know how serious the White House is when we see who the front man for the “Buckle Up” campaign will be. Because only President Obama has the stature to overcome the filter of the corporate-controlled media’s conservative bias. Any other Democrat who tries to tell voters that the Republicans want to go back to doing what they did during the Bush years - only more so -- will be ignored.

So if Obama tries to be “presidential” and stay above the fray, it’s going to be a long, painful election night in November.

Posted by: SteveT on January 20, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking as one of his constituents, Bayh sucks.

OT, has anyone else noticed how quickly the so-called "liberal media," which took forever to recognize that George W. Bush was no longer a popular president, has embraced the "Obama is unpopular!" meme (for example, a cover story in USA Today earlier this week)?

And don't Brown's comments about being the 41st vote against health insurance reform in the Senate reveal that yes, the Republicans are voting in lockstep and no, Olympia Snowe isn't negotiating in good faith? How funny that still the only party expected to be "bipartisan" is the Democrats.

Posted by: Gregory on January 20, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Harold Ford: the future of the Dimocratic Party -- except, you know, white, and from Indiana.

The kabuki Coakley death dance is quite sickening to progressives, but the corporations are still writin' checks, and the big money is to be had momentarily when the SCOTUS opens up the highway to oligarchy...

Posted by: neill on January 20, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

How STUPID, how completely f_cking CLUELESS do you have to be to suggest that DEMOCRATS didn't vote because the party has gone too far left?

If Evan Bayh wants to be a Republican, how about he stop calling himself a Democrat and taking party money.

Posted by: karen marie on January 20, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

I don't agree with purity tests or purges, but for Bayh, I will make an exception. Kick his worthless ass out of the party.

Posted by: ellie on January 20, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is not "moving to the center." The problem is 10 percent unemployment.

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on January 20, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

The answer to failure of a Maginot line-building strategy is NOT to build a longer, better fortified Maginot line. The answer to a failure of a compromise, move right, policy is not more compromise and move further to the right. To satisfy his primal instinct to compromise, Obama needs a strident, near intransigent demanding Progressive movement with a credible candidate to head it. I'd sure give it $ -- I bet millions of others also would.

Posted by: gdb on January 20, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, besides those like Bayh who was firmly in the center right, tacking to the center right will be the survival mode of many other more "progressive" senators and congressmen. The language was drifting in this direction long before the MA election. Rather than embracing change, the message will be keeping the wheels on the unsustainable status quo. So, good bye any chance for any effective global warming legislation.
Poorer people and poorer government make a choice for a poorer land and an unsustainable future. We will all be Haitians soon enough.

Posted by: lou on January 20, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

You are overreacting. Bayh is not worthless, he's just not worth very much.

Obama (or any President) has to work with the Congressional team he was given. Maybe you need to rewrite your constitution and adopt a parliamentary system. The media spends most of its time acting as if Obama was a Prime Minister who had control of his party's legislators (without benefit of payoffs). Those aren't really the rules of your game.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on January 20, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Does Bayh have a primary opponent? Is there still time to run a progressive against Bayh? That is how we handle cowardly DLC types. Just like the Republicans we make them hone to their base.

Folks, the people, right and left, are in open revolt. Too bad the corporate owned media doesn't let itself see what is going on.

The press only reports the teabagger fantasies that Obama has a far right agenda, but we know better. Obama promised change but once elected moved hard to the right. That is what all the bi-partisan talk is all about.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 20, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Exactly right, Steve.

But sadly, I see folks all across the blogosphere eager to take Bayh's advice and do exactly what the conservatives want.

Posted by: John S. on January 20, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

But it's the Congressional elites that are the most anti-populist, pro-corporate hacks. He's right to pick on them, just has the framing jack-ass backwards as do most of his kind in Government, corporatocracy, and media.
And why was an "awful" candidate like Coakley the one running, anyway? Caroline, inexperienced (but well-educated) would be better than a rotten old pol.
For good post-mortem, see http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/01/20/political-thoughts-before-bed/

Posted by: neil b on January 20, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

By all means, you should purge Democrats like Bayh and Lieberman. Let's see--Bayh was IN Sec of State 1986-88, elected Governor in 1988, and elected to the US Senate in 1998. Lieberman was a State Senator from 1971-80, State Atty General from 1983-88, and elected to the Senate in 1988. I can see why the Progressives want to get rid of unpopular representatives like that. Please rid yourselves of these men, and many others like them...although I'm not sure how that helps your voting majority.

Posted by: BillyBobSchranzburg on January 20, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

gdb, your Maiginot Line comment is apt - The French military command had a propensity to attempt to always re-fight their last war. By building that inept line, they were trying to block what the Germans had done in 1914 instead of concentraing on the new tactics of 1940.

The Obama Administration made a huge mistake in trying to emulate the past of bi-partitanship instead of concentrating of taking their new found support on the offensive and overwhelming the enemy. They threw away Elan and bought into Mr Rogers and "Do you want to be my neighbor".

Posted by: berttheclock on January 20, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

No, JohnS, I just want to see our Patzer-in-Chief become the chess champion we thought he would be.

Posted by: berttheclock on January 20, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

It's what they want to do. It gets them the most bennies. It is somewhat inconvenient for Democrats, because their voters take issue with it. But they will always come back to it.

Posted by: TJ on January 20, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

You guys still don't get it. The vast majority of Americans don't want a socialist "solution" to HC. The only problem people really have with the current system is the incredibly high cost, and average Americans are smart enough to realize that encumbering the HC sector with more and more taxes and other mandates will only make that problem worse.

To the extent you insist on this kind of "reform," you are obviously inviting catastrophe at the polls. It's not just the fact that people think the House and Senate bills are a bad idea; it's also the utter contempt the Dems are showing toward the wishes of the majority. The idea that one party is trying to cram something of this magnitude down the throats of a public that is perhaps 2-1 opposed to it is itself incredibly disturbing to the average voter, especially when the object being crammed down said throat happens to represent a huge, permanent expansion of government power over individuals and the private sector.

I get that leftists believe that a govt takeover is the optimal solution for HC just as it would be for every other part of the economy in "crisis." Unfortunately for you, the overwhelming majority of Americans disagree with this. Don't hang Evan Bayh out to dry simply for alluding to this very obvious fact.

Posted by: Conrad on January 20, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

In January 2005, there were 55 Republicans in the Senate and 45 Senators who caucused with the Democrats. By January 2010, there were only 40 Republicans, a decline of 15.

Were there any calls for the Republican Party to move to the left in order to avoid catastrophe?

Having said that, the criterion for success is different for the two parties. The Democrats want to accomplish something, and that requires 60 votes, while the Republicans don't care about accomplishing anything, and so 40 votes is enough.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on January 20, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

BillyBobSchranzburg:
Holy Joe and Evan Bayh aren't Democrats. Team players don't go around stabbing their teammates in the back publicly. Did you not see Holy Joe campaigning with McCain? How can you let a guy like that keep an important Committee chair and not get laughed out of the room?

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on January 20, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Unfortunately, they’ll have to live with their mistake for six years."

Is that right? I thought that Kennedy was re-elected in 2006, which means that his Massachusetts seat would next be up for election in 2012. Does the special election cover the years 2010 -- 2012, or 2010 -- 2016?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on January 20, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

I wish I was Canadian.

Posted by: becca on January 20, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Lieberman was a State Senator from 1971-80, State Atty General from 1983-88, and elected to the Senate in 1988. I can see why the Progressives want to get rid of unpopular representatives like that.

Seen Lieberman's CT approval numbers? They're in the teens. But yeah, I heard he did some good stuff in 1971!

Does the special election cover the years 2010 -- 2012, or 2010 -- 2016?

Through 2012. At that time, the Democratic party will no doubt rerun Coakley against him. They're just that hopeless.

Posted by: Alex on January 20, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

RonByers: Does Bayh have a primary opponent? Is there still time to run a progressive against Bayh? That is how we handle cowardly DLC types. Just like the Republicans we make them hone to their base.

I assume you meant some other word than "hone," but anyway: The Democratic base in Indiana is not particularly left. Assuming you could even get through the primary, a real progressive will not win in Indiana against a Republican. That's not pessimism. That's reality.

Man, it gets old reminding people who've been around long enough to know better that states are different from each other.

Posted by: Alex on January 20, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

The vast majority of Americans don't want a socialist "solution" to HC.

Which is why nothing of the sort is on the table.

It's vastly encouraging, though, to see that the only hope the Right has is to lie like a cheap rug.

Posted by: Gregory on January 20, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a bold move Obama could make to stick it to the Bayhs of DC Village, similar to what I've heard but not exactly AFAIK:

"Those who think it's wrong for the government to make people buy services from private companies have a good point. Many of them forget, that if a public option had staying in this Health-Care Reform bill, citizens would not have to buy private insurance but could add into Medicare [/etc. - note the irony of who opposed the PO and them now griping about forced purchase from private companies!] The public option would have been a good idea, but was killed by lawmakers either too timid about change, or too beholden to special interests. In view of the need to have a strong public option to serve as both proper competition for insurance companies, and to provide an alternative to those who find it wrong or distasteful to be made to buy private insurance with no other recourse [/it is, isn't it?/], I will do the following: I will veto any HCR bill that comes to my desk, that has a mandate without a public option. Thank you."

I'm not holding my breath, but wow would it be good, effective, and right.

tyrannogenius

Posted by: neil b on January 20, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

To Conrad:
All you're doing is spewing talking points. Perhaps you're only capable of thinking in slogans, but thinking in slogans isn't going to do anything to lower insurance costs, reduce discrimination against people who are already ill (there but for the grace of ...), gain coverage for the many millions who can't afford any insurance, or reduce the overall cost of health care itself.
You know, the fascist response that big government doesn't work and we need to free up the private sector is just so much hot air. If you really believe in the free market, then explain to me why the private sector hasn't already come up with a way to address what's wrong with the system. If the private sector is so far superior, we should have already been offered superior products by the private insurance industry. Where are these superior products ? And why do all the republicans in congress continue to rely on their government run health care ?

Posted by: rbe1 on January 20, 2010 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

During the 08 elections the Democratic strategy of every state counts must not be abandoned.

The loss of Mass while hurts, does not mean the end of the Democrats. What it does mean that the Democrats must work harder to advance. The worst thing to is to say "We are doomed and there's no hope so we might as well go home and cry".

When the Republicans tell a lie, the response must be immediate.

Posted by: wbn on January 20, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

"Vote for me -- I abandoned my agenda, ignored my mandate, and ran for the hills at the first sign of trouble."

Isn't that the #1 organizing principle of Democrats? And #2 is "Sell out your base if a contributor will give you a nickel for doing so".

But really, what a wakeup call. Unfortunately I can count on Dems taking the wrong lesson from it.

Posted by: an old guy on January 20, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

I spoke to a few friends that did phone banking for Coakley. While she was a pretty flawed candidate they said a lot of independents were pissed about the fact that Obama did nothing to Wall Street and badly mangled HealthCare. This after running the campaign he ran. Is it fair to think he could fix the country after a year, no, but very few people thinks that he has "saved" anything but Wall Street Bankers. Too many people were attracted to Brown's populist anger. No one I know were able to tell me what his policies were, he ran on attack, attack, attack Coakley. And while MA is liberal, it is also fairly conservative on one point, you will never see a women on Beacon Hill or in a senate seat.

I have a friend, solid Dem, who voted for Brown because of healthcare. when I asked her to explain to me her attraction to the Repub plan over the Dem on she couldn't, but she is pissed. The funny thing is that she couldn't tell me why. She is getting blasted by e-mails from friends and family about all sorts of things and she is worried that her heathcare that she pays an outrageous amount for will be taxed. Not true but hey, someone she trusts sent her an e-mail. She is not stupid, she is a BC math grad. She is just lost in the details and believes her friends when they tell her what they were told by Rush or Savage or Beck because that is how it happeneds. They would never believe it from the original source but when they get it from an uncle who is all outraged they believe it because they don't have time to delve into the facts.

We continually complain about how the right lies and spins and we respond by fact check ourselves to death. Frank Rich was right, it was a great time for Republican's to have Dem's take over the leadership because all the painful fixes are laid on those who have to fix the problems, not those that caused it because people repeat the lies over and over and no one challanges them on it. Fair and balanced has given way to the Sunday news anchors becoming referees. Repubs have figured out the the media will only report on "controversy" so they use outrageous language like "death panels" to attract attention which in turns gives them a forum to shout their message from the rooftops.
Dems sit and think that reasoned argument is the way to go. Well, how often do you hear reasoned arguement reported on the news. It's not the news organization's fault because even if they did, people are bored by it and change the channel. News use to be a public service, now it is just another revenue generating entertainment show. We won on anger and now they are. We have got to figure out a way to unglue our balls.

Posted by: Beffie on January 20, 2010 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Scott Brown was an "awful candidate" too; he promised up front to wreck or derail every initiative progressives believe in - couched, of course, in the carefully guarded language ("I support "sensible" environmental policies that will protect blah blah blah", sensible meaning whatever you want it to mean, since it can't be pinned down to any clear meaning, for example)of politicians. Massachusetts elected him anyway. He did a good job of selling himself as a bluff, hearty straight-from-the-hip kind of Real American, while Coakley came off like The Ice Princess From The Planet Of No Baseball.

What's the matter with you people? A two-year-old is harder to fool.

The loss of Massachusetts does so mean the end of the Democrats, because they WON'T work harder to advance. They'll quail and cower like they always do, and go on rearranging the TITANIC deck chairs while they try to please everybody. Sickening is what it is. I can't believe a party that consistently tries to spend America's money in America making Americans' lives better - as opposed to blowing it on costly foreign wars that make everyone hate your guts - allows itself to be branded as Socialists and Commies and driven ignominiously out of office. I know the electorate is composed of impatient retards, but can't you at least act like your spine is there for some other reason than making your ass easier to kick?

Jeebus.

Posted by: Mark on January 20, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

We wanted change from Bush, but not insane infants throwing around trillions like nickels, or sleazing around with the census, or continuing Bush's assaults on freedom such as illegal wiretapping, or farting around over meaningless gestures like moving Gitmo prisoners at enormous expense, or taking $500 billion from old white people's medicare and giving it to illegal-aliens-made-citizens to buy the Hispanic vote, etc., etc.

We're broke and we want real change. The Dems had their shot and blew it on BS, and now Republicans represent change, not that we have any real hope as Washington is for itself and corporations.

Posted by: Orlando Ren on January 20, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

"she is worried that her heathcare that she pays an outrageous amount for will be taxed."

If she's not in a union and has a costly "Cadillac" plan, according to the proposed bill, she's right. She would have paid a hefty 40% tax on it, either directly or through her employer.

If she had a union employee next door with the same plan, under the proposal, her neighbor's policy would be exempt from the tax.

Sure. That's fair.

Posted by: marybel on January 20, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

if the party gives up on the agenda that got them elected ... and simply becomes Republican-lite. That seems like very bad advice.

Nonsense! It worked great for Bill Clinton in '94! After Hilarycare got stopped and he ran to the center, he....
Oh, um... nevermind.


Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on January 20, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

But to hear Bayh tell it, the electorate will reward Democrats if the party gives up on the agenda that got them elected -- and gave them the largest majorities in a generation -- and simply becomes Republican-lite.

The agenda that got Democrats elected was ending the culture of corruption in Washington. They abandoned that agenda long ago, and simply replaced Republican corruption with Democratic corruption. It wasn't even "lite" corruption, but as heavy as Republican corruption.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 20, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

"We wanted change from Bush, but not insane infants throwing around trillions like nickels, or sleazing around with the census, or continuing Bush's assaults on freedom such as illegal wiretapping, or farting around over meaningless gestures like moving Gitmo prisoners at enormous expense, or taking $500 billion from old white people's medicare and giving it to illegal-aliens-made-citizens to buy the Hispanic vote, etc., etc."

Dude, I think you should go to an ER, stat. I think you're having a stroke. I hope you have good insurance.

Posted by: bdop4 on January 20, 2010 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Low-information voter at 12:09!

Posted by: in the crow's nest on January 20, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"The only we 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."

This is the entire problem in a nutshell. The lack of party discipline. Conservatives are Satan, to be sure. But, they do not eat their young like this.

Every democrat that has railed against Obama or Reid or Pelosi over the last year is responsible for this catastrophe. Every democrat who believed in bipartisanship with an enemy that is unwilling to talk is complicit.

Posted by: chrenson on January 20, 2010 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

"If Evan Bayh wants to be a Republican, how about he stop calling himself a Democrat and taking party money."
Posted by: karen marie on January 20, 2010 at 8:43 AM

Exactly what I pointed out to the nice caller from the DNC (or was it the DSCC or DCCC?) who called last week asking for my $.
I told them they'd be welcome to keep my name on the lists for possible future donations, but until they stop giving any support whatsoever to the Bayhs, the Baucuses, the Nelsons, the Landrieus, etcetcetc, they'd be getting absolutely nothing from me.
I trust everyone here is doing the same -- and being sure they hear and record exactly what it is we're furious over?

Posted by: smartalek on January 20, 2010 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

"The only way we are able to govern successfully in this country is by liberals and progressives making common cause with independents and moderates." Sen. Bayh as quoted by Steve Benen.

That quote would be funny if Bayh wasn't such a twit. He lists four political groupings, not one of which is he a member. His speeches and voting record rules him out as a mainstream Democrat.
What's left? (pardon the pun)
Oh, and Indiana DOES elect progressives: Birch Bayh was a real progressive (1960s); as was Paul McNutt (1940s). Just not that often...

Posted by: Doug on January 20, 2010 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

You don't think idiots trying to include birth control coverage in the stimulus package was overplaying a hand?

Posted by: mamzic on January 21, 2010 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK
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