Wednesday, January 20

I Blame McGovern

I'M from Indiana, a state which, oddly, had its political boundaries set by being what was left over when the old Indiana Territory was carved into attractive places to settle once the original settlers had been moved someplace worse. Hell, most aboriginal Americans had the good sense to live somewhere else, and only came here to hunt, scout unsuccessfully for large rivers or mountains they could put between themselves and the Iroquois, or go to the Race.

My fellow Hoosiers--I helped once--have elected Birch Evans Bayh Secretary of State (that's the waiting room for the Governor's mansion), Governor, twice, and now United States Senator twice. This actually doesn't seem so bad if you keep reminding yourself that both Dan Burton and his little brother Woody were available.

And here's the thing: I have a passing interest in politics, and I'll be damned if I've ever met anyone who was a fan of Evan Bayh. I've never heard anyone express an admiration for his principles, wax lyrical about his character, or compliment his legislative record (which is a physical impossibility at any rate). I've never heard an eager and dewy-limbed youth name Evan Bayh as his or her inspiration in choosing Politics, or the Law, as a career path. Hell, I have to check to see if I've got the "y" and the "h" in the right order every time I write his name, and I stuffed envelopes for his father back in '68.

Sure, there are people who campaign for him, generally under the weight of the persistent delusion that he's a Democrat, or else because they like his hair, and the whole state, or that part of it the Indianapolis media deigns to cover, was in an artificial tizzy for the two days he spent on Barack Obama's VP short list, but then this is a state where any suggestion of national infamy or temporary celebrity, coupled with a territorial connection to the state at or exceeding the level of holding a library card, gets the connection touted in perpetuity. I'm pretty sure Axl Rose and Claude Akins are in the State Hall of Fame, and likely that Rupert guy from Survivor, and no Charlie Manson anniversary, parole denial, or attempted immolation goes by without the locals pointing out that he learned his trade at the Indiana Boys' School. In fact the only time you see Bayh praised for anything that might broadly be described as "character" or "competence" is when some wingnut correspondent to the Indianapolis Racist Beacon checks in to "thank" Bayh for his "bravery" in supporting whatever wingnut position he's taken this week "despite being a Democrat". Which is like an unassisted triple play of erroneousness.

Bayh has made absolutely no contribution to the legislative history of the Republic, and that's grading on the Senate Gentlemen's curve. He's neither said nor done anything remotely original, thought-provoking, or indicative of the potential for original thought. His entire political career has been dedicated to moving Evan Bayh up the ladder. When he didn't get the VP nod in '08 he rather conspicuously went home and wept into his war chest, never campaigning for the hard-pressed Democrat trying to rid us of Mitch Daniels, not that he's ever demonstrated any coattails in Indiana. He's spent his time in Washington greasing the skids for the Empty Quarter Republicans who get to control every piece of federal legislation based on our cherished 18th century notions of the intellectual superiority of white men who own lots of land, while being greased in return. If there is some alternative explanation for this behavior I've missed it. I understand what Bayh gets out of it, but why Indiana should be so all-fired interested in helping Western water, oil, and mineral interests keep feeding at that Federal trough Hoosiers are a traditional net contributor to, when they have nothing whatsoever in common is beyond me. Oh course, I can't figure out why his senior sinecure gets sent to DC over and over to turn down the Agriculture Committee chair so he can earn his International Nuclear Proliferation Eagle Scout badge, either. Maybe "rationally" isn't the way to think about this.

So I really was at a loss a couple weeks back when he got some touts as a serious backroom player trying to rescue health care, since I'd seen little previously analyzing his role as a major impediment to the sort of real health care reform that might jeopardize some fraction of his wife's $ multi-million slush career as a pharmaceutical industry board decoration. And I'm especially confused as to why, suddenly, ABC thinks he's capable of saying things that make sense, let alone a difference.
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.

“It’s why moderates and independents even in a state as Democratic as Massachusetts just aren’t buying our message,” he said. “They just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems. That’s something that has to be corrected.”

Is there really any need to say it?

Let's just note that, as there's no conceivable non-Euclidean geometry where this makes a bit of sense, the actual news here is "Senatorial cypher finds in Coakley defeat sufficient cloak to crawl out of the cloakroom and predict Catastrophe! unless more Democrats join him in pursuing the sort of fiscal and political sensibleness he facilitated for eight years of the Bush administration, despite the fact that any honest person whose wife had been caught luxuriating up to both elbows in health-care payola would have resigned immediately, and any with half an ounce of real sensibleness would have shut th' fuck up at minimum."

Look: you tell me when we might see that sort of thing as a headline, and I'll tell you when we might see something approaching the sort of decent basic health care system that might move us to the middle of the list of Industrialized Nations. Or even Substantially Literate ones.

Meanwhile, who'd like to admit they urged the Goddam Populace to elect a filibuster-proof Senate?

Who'll admit they thought we'd get something approaching universal health care after '08, despite the porn-sticky fingerprints of Congressional slatterns it was sure to accrue? (I did.)

Who'd care to locate Republican moderation in the face of absolute loss of electoral control, not just loss of the mythical "Ooooh, this might be tough, and we might have to take a stand" type? Th' fuck were you doing with 60 votes, anyway? It's a lot like worrying that Tim Wakefield has lost 2 mph from his fastball.

Who wants to see the elimination of Congressional health care? Wouldn't that move us to the Center? Real term limits, with no grandfathering? How 'bout a President who finally gets the message, and starts using signing statements to refuse to spend tax allotments in districts that block even the crappy reforms approved by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries? Christ, the man's mimicked everything else Bush did.

Anybody itching to see the Republican health care plan necessitated by hardball Democratic politics after November? (Don't hold yer breath; won't be covered.)

Finally, anybody want a "Democratic" Senator? I've got one I'm dying to get rid of; I'll trade even for a nude-model teabagger at this point.


charles pierce said...

We in the Udall campaign kicked his daddy's ass all over NH. Be happy to do it again.
By the way, toss in a steak at the St. Elmo, and you've got a deal on the Senate swap.

James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

I was a Udall man in '76 too, Charles.

I'll have a word with Downtown Lester Brown about the steak and get back to ya. Meanwhile, I'm truly, truly sorry you guys aren't coming to town Sunday.

LittlePig said...

Remember when Democrats would bristle at the appellation "wimp", "sissy" or "rent boy"?

Me neither.

What do you try when blatant shaming doesn't work? (besides light artillery, that is)

Word verifcation: tedis

No, tedaint

Dr. Harl Delos said...

I heard a radio interview - possibly an Indianapolis station, possibly a Marion one - with John Mutz about a week before the general election in 1988. The polls were pretty hopeless at that point for the GOP. Mutz said that Evan Bayh was intelligent, a hard worker, from a good family, appeared to be of good character - in fact, exactly the kind of man we should be encouraging to enter public service. The only problem, Mutz said, was that Bayh didn't have the necessary experience for the job, and perhaps after Mutz served a couple of terms as governor, Bayh would be perfect for the job.

Obviously, voters agreed with Mutz, but figured that if Evan ran into trouble, he could always call on his Papa for assistance.

In any case, you now know of two Evan Bayh fans, and we're both Republicans.

No, he's not perfect, but as Leonard Cohen pointed out, there is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in.

Word verification: periseap. Isn't that what you use to see over the top of the people standing in front of you?

charles pierce said...

Doghouse --
We'd have been in town, but the Humane Society threatened to arrest Belichick on a Vick charge if he arranged to put Lee Bodden and Peyton Manning on the same field again.

arghous said...

We're stuck with the son-of-Udall, Mark, who's basically done squat except for campaigning early and often.

Well, I guess he does go along with most Democratic rubber stamping, but so what? So did Ben Nighthorse Campbell before he saw which way the stockyard winds were blowing.