The stunning retirement of Indiana's Evan Bayh from the Senate is essentially a loud and emphatic "take this job and shove it" to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For months, Bayh has been screaming that the Democratic Party needs to reorient toward a more popular, centrist agenda — one that emphasizes jobs and fiscal responsibility over health care and cap and trade.
Neither the White House nor the Senate leadership has given him the response he wanted. Their bungling of what should have been a routine bipartisan jobs bill last week seems to have been the last straw.
I don't doubt that Bayh could have won re-election. For him, the question was: Even if I win, who needs six more years of dealing with these people, after which I might be 60 years old and trying to pick up the pieces of a damaged political party brand?
Quitting the Senate was a no-lose move for the presidentially ambitious Bayh, because he can crawl away from the political wreckage for a couple of years, plausibly alleging that he tried to steer the party in a different direction — and then be well positioned to mount a centrist primary challenge to Obama in 2012, depending on circumstances.
Bayh's vote of no-confidence in his own party looks like another Massachusetts-size political earthquake for the Democrats.
Charles Lane is a member of the Washington Post's editorial page staff.
"There is too much partisanship and not enough progress — too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous challenge, the people's business is not being done."
Sen. Evan Bayh, announcing his decision
'This city is broken'
. On the Washington Post's opinion writers PostPartisan blog, Eugene Robinson said that "It is incredible that a U.S. senator believes he can be of more service to his state and his nation in some other role — running a business, leading a university. Wow. Anyone who wonders why there is such anti-incumbent fervor in the land ought to have a chat with Evan Bayh. I didn't agree with him on every issue, but on the dysfunction in Washington he's absolutely right. This city is broken because too many of our leaders confuse politics with service. Americans know the difference."
Moderates need not apply
. And Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote:
"The Senate is rapidly becoming more and more like the House with the vast majority of members in each party occupying the ends rather than the center of the political spectrum. Bayh is at least the fourth centrist … to walk away this cycle. The simple message to moderates aspiring to the Senate? There's nothing here for you. You need not apply. And that's bad news for the country at large."
Portion of Americans surveyed
who said they planned to vote to
re-elect their representative in Congress,
according to a Washington Post-ABC News
poll this month.