Evan Bayh Departure Signals Democratic Woes

Friday, 19 Feb 2010 10:28 AM

By Ralph Reed

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Evan Bayh’s announcement that he will not seek re-election to the Indiana Senate seat he has held for two terms sent another wave of panic through Democratic ranks.

Even the mainstream media now have to admit the obvious: control of the U.S. Senate is legitimately in play in 2010.

Democrats face uphill battles to hold seats vacated by Byron Dorgan in North Dakota, Joe Biden in Delaware (whose son took a pass on running to replace his father), Ken Salazar in Colorado (whose replacement Michael Bennett faces a tough primary and general election), Barack Obama (and later Roland Burris) in Illinois, and now Bayh in Indiana.

In addition, Democrat incumbents trail or are on the ropes in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Nevada. Combined with Scott Brown’s victory last month in Massachusetts, Democratic control of the Senate is now on the bubble, an amazingly swift reversal of fortune for Democrats who only months ago enjoyed a filibuster-proof majority and the afterglow of Obama’s 2008 presidential victory.

Depending upon how races in Washington, New York, and Wisconsin come together, a Republican U.S. Senate in 2011 is possible.

Bayh’s announcement was a punch in the gut to his party and his president. He rejected last-minute entreaties from President Obama and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stay. It was a bitter pill to swallow and it didn’t take long for the off-the-record Democratic sniping at Bayh to begin. “’He’s finished,” one Democratic political consultant told Politico “’His party needed him to stay and fight, and he ran away. People won’t forget.”

Bayh and MSM commentators bemoaned the “dysfunction” of the Senate as an institution and Washington, D.C. (“this town,” as the D.C. crowd calls it). This almost requires the dubbing in of a laugh track.

Where was the hand-wringing when Democrats were filibustering George W. Bush’s appellate court nominees? Or when they did everything in their power to prematurely end U.S. involvement in Iraq with statements like “the war is lost”? Or when there was discussion of impeaching Bush or trying Cheney for war crimes? Or when Democrats called for an independent counsel to investigate the Valerie Plame leak, leading to the conviction of Lewis “Scooter” Libby and the harassment of other Bush aides when Patrick Fitzgerald knew from the outset that the source for the leak was Richard Armitage?

The selective bemoaning of Washington’s “dysfunction” and “partisanship” by liberals who over-reached in pursuing an extremist agenda and have run into the opposition of the American people is quite amusing.

More seriously, Bayh’s retirement is the latest loss of an endangered species of centrist Democrats. There used to be powerful and influential centrist Democrats in the Senate like Sam Nunn (and later Zell Miller) of Georgia, David Boren of Oklahoma, and Russell Long of Louisiana.

They voted for the Reagan or Bush tax cuts and supported a strong defense. But they are a dying breed. In this sense, Bayh is the last of the Mohicans. It says a lot about the current state of the Democratic Party; even as they celebrated their largest majorities in Congress in decades, the center was imploding.

The hijacking of the party of Jackson and Jefferson by the far left since the 2004 elections is now coming back to haunt Democrats.

As Democratic pollster and former Bill Clinton adviser Doug Schoen put it: “This [Bayh’s retirement] sends a message that centrists are increasingly rare species in a Democratic Party that has lurched too far to the left.” But don’t hold your breath waiting for “Democratic centrists leave party in droves” stories from the MSM. They write those stories only about Republicans.

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