16 February 2010

Does Bayh's retirement from the Senate really matter?

Yesterday, Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) announced that he will not be running for re-election. His stated reason: The overly partisan climate in Washington.

Well, as they say, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. However, it seems that Bayh has done his own part to help the partisan Republicans block the agenda of his own Democratic party.

Some would quite validly allege that Bayh is a Democrat in name only, a conservative "Blue Dog" through and through. As Matthew Yglesias pointed out at ThinkProgress.org, "Bayh's been the second-most conservative Democrat in the 111th Senate."

So, although some people see this as another potential loss for the Democrats, I can't help but wonder: Even if Bayh is replaced by a Republican, will it really make a significant difference?

Probably not, given the current power of the Blue Dogs and the Obama administration's apparent distaste for any kind of toughness in trying to influence legislation to advance its own campaign-promised agenda.

If Obama really wants to effect change we can believe in, he needs to stop being a community organizer -- trying to drum up consensus all around -- and start being a political leader instead. Until and unless he can do that, will the mid-term elections really matter much at all?

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