George W. Bush began his second term in an earnest and prolonged search for a bipartisan solution to the problems plaguing Social Security. He ran into what the Washington Post called “a solid wall of Democratic opposition.” Some Democrats sincerely opposed not only W’s idea of private accounts as part of an overhaul but any sort of tinkering period on ideological grounds. Others refused to suggest any sort of negotiation for fear of handing Bush a political victory. Partisanship destroyed the initiative. Social Security remains unreformed and is now five years closer to insolvency.
Where was Evan Bayh during those months in 2005?
Where was he when Patrick Leahy bottled up nominees in Judiciary through 2001 and 2002, and then when Democrats used filibuster after filibuster from 2003 through 2006 to stop judicial nominees? The filibuster had never before been used to attack judicial nominees that way. Where was Bayh and his concern for “too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving”?
Indeed, where was Senator Bayh in late 2009 when he could have used his position in the Senate to demand that President Obama refuse the jam down on health care? Bayh had the ability to block Obamacare unless and until it could attract at least a handful of Republican votes. He didn’t. Instead he cut a deal for Indiana and voted for the deeply unpopular and wildly expensive assault on seniors specifically and American medicine generally.
Evan Bayh has the ability to not only condemn the refusal of Republicans to join the deficit commission as he did yesterday, but also the ability to refuse to support a $1.6 trillion deficit which is so stunning as to undo the idea of a commission. He has not yet shown any sign of doing so. If he does act independently over the next nine months, he establishes a base from which to challenge President Obama in the Democratic primaries of 2012, but that will require a great deal more candor about what ails D.C. than he displayed yesterday.
The Manhattan-Beltway media elite’s coverage of the farewell press conference predictably mentioned nothing of these inconvenient truths about partisanship in Washington and Senator Bayh’s own role in it. That’s fine. Beltway lefties –especially those in the media– are frustrated by the refusal of voters to applaud the Obama-Pelosi-Reid hard lurch left, and are now telling themselves that Republican obstructionism will be the message that saves them in the fall. This is the worst sort of self-delusion, and has put the Democrats on the very edge of a cliff. “It’s a tough year to be a Democrat,” Michael Barone concludes at the end of his typically insightful column today. Tough and getting tougher because the president and the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader aren’t giving up their hard left agenda even as Congressional Democrats see a tsunami of public opposition forming and heading their way.
Voters don’t want Obamacare. They don’t want to own GM. They don’t trust Chris Dodd and Barney Frank to overhaul banking. They don’t want to spend another $1.6 trillion we don’t have. They don’t believe Joe Biden about the stimulus working and they don’t want the EPA acting unilaterally to impose the cap-and-tax radical agenda that not even a hard left Congress will pass.
Evan Bayh says the problem is that Washington doesn’t work anymore? Then he’s deaf. Deaf to voters generally and especially Indiana voters.
Democrats spent 2009 alienating voters because of the policies they pursued. It seems as thought they will spend 2010 insulting voters by telling them that they don’t understand Obamacare, that they have been fooled by Rush, Hannity et al, and that GOP obstructionism is the root cause of all that ails the country.
It is not unusual for Democrats to treat the voters as though they were stupid. It is unusual for them to tell the voters that again and again.
Congressional Republicans now have to summon up the courage to hold their lines and their principles. They need to speak clearly and repeatedly about their opposition and what it is rooted in. They have to make one simple argument: The vast array of changes proposed by the president and his allies are not what the American people want and we must have a referendum on them via the November elections before we do anything but oppose them. If the people want Obamacare, they can vote for Democrats in the fall. If they want to bankrupt the country and devalue the currency, they can vote for Democrats in the fall.
But if they turn out the Democrats in large numbers –larger if the Democrats do a jam down with reconciliation– then the “obstructionism” denounced by the president’s media toadies will be rewarded as the principled and necessary opposition to a radical agenda that has nowhere near majority support and which was never proposed to the country in the campaign of 2008.