For some reason, the New York Times saw fit to waste the paper and ink necessary to mass-publish Bayh's application for this dismal work in the form of an op-ed offering the Senator's take on Tuesday's congressional election. Bayh concludes Democrats lost because they're too liberal.
What a surprise, right?
"To a degree," he says, "we [Democrats] are authors of our own misfortune." How so?
"It is clear that Democrats over-interpreted our mandate. Talk of a 'political realignment' and a 'new progressive era' proved wishful thinking. Exit polls in 2008 showed that 22 percent of voters identified themselves as liberals, 32 percent as conservatives and 44 percent as moderates. An electorate that is 76 percent moderate to conservative was not crying out for a move to the left."But then, again, the American public isn't "76 percent moderate to conservative"; that polling reflects how people--most of whom are not political junkies and don't put a great deal of thought into what simple label they apply to their politics--view themselves and is profoundly impacted by the decades-long demonization of the "liberal" label. Ask them specific questions about their views and Americans are, just as they have been for ages, liberal and, on most issues, overwhelmingly so.
Bayh is phoning it in from another dimension when he says "we," by which he means Democrats, "were too deferential to our most zealous supporters." In this one, the Obama, who has largely set the Democratic agenda, has remained well to the right of the general public, continuing the war in Iraq while expanding the war in Afghanistan, refusing to even consider single-payer health care then dropping the public option from the Republican health care bill he adopted as his own, watering down regulatory reform, moving the already-reactionary Supreme Court further to the right, refusing to throw any kind of weight behind Democratic congressional efforts to both prevent companies from exporting jobs and to encourage companies to import them (at a time when jobs are THE major issue), then, as a final indignity, publicly trashing his own base while whining about how he doesn't get any credit for his "accomplishments." This behavior helped turn off his base and feed the "enthusiasm gap" between Democratic and Republican voters, which Gallup reported, just before the election, was 19%--greater than they'd ever measured in the nearly-two-decades they'd tracked it.
Bayh's fanciful account of the election season:
"During election season, Congress sought to placate those on the extreme left and motivate the base--but that meant that our final efforts before the election focused on trying to allow gays in the military, change our immigration system and repeal the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. These are legitimate issues but unlikely to resonate with moderate swing voters in a season of economic discontent."Hard to know where to start.
In the real world, the public overwhelmingly supports allowing homosexuals to serve in the military. A typical poll (this one from CBS News) found, only a few weeks ago, 69% support for the proposition, 51% saying they supported it "strongly" (only 21% opposed it). Trying to make this possible wouldn't have been an effort "to placate those on the extreme left"--it would have been an effort to enact a policy overwhelmingly supported by the American public. Unfortunately, the Democrats weren't trying to allow gays in the military during the campaign--they were, instead, engaged in delaying tactics designed to prevent the matter from becoming an issue in the campaign. Only weeks ago, a federal court voided the current policy and if the Obama had wanted, he could have just been done with it at that point. Instead, he chose to appeal the ruling, which didn't endear him to anyone on the left.
There was no serious movement on immigration reform at any point during the campaign--Bayh's assertion to the contrary is fantasy.
It's a misrepresentation--or, just to call it straight, a lie--to say Democrats were trying "to repeal the George W. Bush-era tax cuts." The tax cuts aren't going to be repealed--they're going to expire. That's the law. If nothing happens, they all go away. The debate is whether or not they should be continued. Democrats have argued for renewing the tax cuts that go to most people while allowing to expire the big chunk of them that go to those of higher income. Polling shows that this is also the position of a majority or plurality of the public, depending on the question's wording, so, again, this isn't aimed at trying "to placate those on the extreme left"--the Democratic view has broad support.
Some numbers being well-circulated on the left blogosphere today further cripple Bayh's narrative that Democrats cut their own throats by being Democrats. While the liberal Congressional Progressive caucus lost only three of its more-than-80 members on Tuesday, the Blue Dog caucus, made up of right-wing Democrats like Bayh who shun "their" party and side with Republicans time and time again, was decimated, losing nearly 30 of their 54 members.
Even after voters sent most of the "Democrats" packing, Bayh's big solution to Democratic woes is that Democrats should become even more conservative and that the already-conservative Obama should move even further to the right--"seize the center," as Bayh euphemistically puts it. It's the sort of conclusion the American conservative elite pays well to spread around, particularly when it's being offered by a faux Democrat, so while Bayh has proven himself utterly worthless as a Senator, he can leave his overpaid post in these bad economic times without a worry about future employment. He'll have work. His family will never go hungry. His future is bright. He should probably wear shades.