Eight minutes and 23 seconds was all it took for Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) to call it a career. Bayh announced last week that for the first time in 25 years, his employer will not be the people of Indiana, come January. This columnist, despite some ideological differences, will be sad to see him go.
Bayh served Indiana as secretary of state, governor and senator during his tenure in public service and retired last week because congress was not operating as it should. He cited partisanship. He cited gridlock. He blamed both sides. He blamed the institution. He didn’t point fingers, but we could read between the lines.
Calling himself “an executive at heart” and “a lonely voice,” Bayh walked away from another six years in the United States Senate. While he was going to face a tough challenger, Bayh didn’t step aside for political reasons. He has never lost an election and had $13 million on hand to fend off former Republican Senator Dan Coats in November.
Bayh said he still believed public service was the highest calling, but thought there were better ways to serve the people than as their senator. He suggested his next move would take him to business, an institution of higher learning or a charitable organization.When Senator Bayh exits stage left next January, Washington will lose a moderate and a compromiser; two things it needs now more than ever.
At some point, being a moderate started to mean you were a flip-flopper or a panderer. But that simply isn’t true. Bayh’s rhetoric and his record are centrist. He doesn’t talk from the right and vote from the left. He does both from the middle.
However, the middle is a dangerous place on Capitol Hill these days. Ask Senators Lieberman and McCain. If you break ranks, you’re abandoned and that’s why Bayh’s leaving. He’s tired of having to choose between right and what Senator Harry Reid says.
Compromise is something this congress thinks is written about in history books. They think compromise shows weakness. If you compromise, you fail the purity test. But, compromise is good. That’s how we make decisions, and it is how we ought to govern.
There are times we shouldn’t waver, but there are plenty of times we should give a little to get a little. Evan Bayh knows this, but Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi don’t, which is why he’s leaving. He’s tired of a congress that doesn’t involve the minority party. He knows they have plenty to offer.
It’s a sad day when the voice of reason walks away. Evan Bayh, the Democratic voice of reason, has had enough. He doesn’t want to be part of a lost cause.
Hopefully, congress will get the message. Instead of calmly praising Bayh for his service, they should follow his example. Congress should become a place of compromise and moderation. In a country with a pretty even right-left split, congress ought to govern from the middle.
We shouldn’t expel the moderates in favor of hard-liners because we are a country of centrists. We should welcome legislators who are willing to do the country’s business and who are not interested in how they play on Hannity or Countdown.
In a time of real challenge, this country needs more senators like Evan Bayh, not fewer. We need people who are interested in listening to one another. We need people who are not afraid to take a little heat from their own party in the name of progress. We need legislators who think for themselves.
We need moderates and compromisers. They’re part of a healthy legislature. We need congressman and senators who hear both sides of an argument and can facilitate a solution. Despite what you may hear from Washington, moderates and compromisers aren’t the enemy. They’re the silver bullet.