Rumors had Senator Evan Bayh on the short list to be Barack Obama’s running mate in the summer of 2008, and the choice would have made more sense than Obama’s eventual pick of Joe Biden. Bayh could have given Obama some credibility as a centrist as well as regional clout in the Rust Belt, which Obama won anyway in the general election. Now Bayh has to face those same constituents for re-election this year, and after the shocking victory for Republicans in Massachusetts, Bayh has a warning call to his colleagues on the Hill:
Even before the votes are counted, Senator Evan Bayh is warning fellow Democrats that ignoring the lessons of the Massachusetts Senate race will “lead to even further catastrophe” for their party.
“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.” …
“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.” …
“It’s why moderates and independents even in a state as Democratic as Massachusetts just aren’t buying our message. They just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems. That’s something that has to be corrected.”
That is as clear a shot across the bow for Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama as we’re likely to see in a Senate race — and an indication of where the Obama agenda is headed in a Senate with 41 Republicans. Bayh has warned repeatedly over the past year about overreach and a leftward tilt in Congress, although thus far he hasn’t put his votes where his mouth has been. He went along on ObamaCare after the public option got stripped out of the final Harry Reid version, and didn’t even get a deal like Ben Nelson wangled for Nebraska.
Bayh sounds as though he’s heading off the reservation in the wake of the Democratic fiasco in Massachusetts, but sounds won’t be enough for Indiana voters. Bayh will have to follow through on his long-held threat to form a moderate coalition to block Reid’s agenda, similar to what John McCain did to George Bush’s judiciary nominees in 2005. Even that may not help Bayh at this point; a gallows conversion rarely impresses anyone, and that’s exactly what it will resemble.
That doesn’t make Bayh’s advice to Democrats any less valuable. They seem convinced that the only way to rescue themselves from the trap in which they have caught themselves is to chew off the foot that’s still free. If they double down on their hard-Left agenda, nothing Bayh does will save him in Indiana, and leftists like Barbara Boxer may discover that they’re not immune to the anger that this Congress has generated, either.
Update: Former Clinton aide Lanny Davis makes a similar case in the Wall Street Journal:
Somehow, in the last 12 months, we allowed the party of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to morph into the party of George McGovern (or more accurately, his most ardent supporters) and Howard Dean, who called for the defeat of the Democratic health-care bill if it had neither a public option or Medicare buy-in. (He couldn’t possibly have been speaking for the 31 million uninsured people in taking that all-or-nothing position.)
In 1996, Mr. Clinton was the first Democrat to win re-election since FDR—expanding the electoral map once again into western, southern, and sunbelt states. He did so by creating a new ideological hybrid for a still-progressive Democratic Party: balanced-budget fiscal conservatism, cultural moderation, and liberal social programs administered by a “lean and mean government.” This New Democrat combination appealed to Ross Perot independents concerned about deficits, and also to traditional Republican suburbanites who were culturally moderate on issues like abortion and gay rights but opposed to high taxes and wasteful, big-government bureaucracy.
Then, in 2008, Barack Obama added something extra: a commitment to a “new politics” that transcended the “red” versus “blue” partisan divide. He explained this concept clearly in his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote speech and during his 2008 presidential campaign. It meant compromise, consensus and bipartisanship, even if that meant only incremental change. The purists on the left of the Democratic Party who demanded the “public option” or no bill at all apparently forgot that candidate Obama’s health-care proposal did not include a public option; nor did it include a government mandate for everyone to either purchase insurance or pay a significant tax approximating the cost of that insurance—the “pay or play provision” in both the Senate and House bills.
Somehow? Look very carefully for the one name Davis neglects to mention: Nancy Pelosi. There isn’t any somehow about this. Obama abdicated his agenda to Pelosi, either because he secretly supported a far-Left agenda or couldn’t be bothered to make up his own mind about what he wanted. The outcome was entirely predictable.