Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) just officially announced his retirement from the Senate, with a clear message: He doesn't like Congress.
"For some time I've had a growing conviction that Congress is not working as it should," said Bayh. As a prime example, he referred to the recent filibustering of legislation to create a bipartisan fiscal commission. What particularly bothered Bayh was that it was defeated by Senators who had previously been co-sponsors of the measure itself, but then blocked it for what he described as political reasons.
"To put it in words I think most people can understand, I love working for the people of Indiana, I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives," said Bayh. "But I do not love Congress."
Bayh: 'I Do Not Love Congress'
Much as I dislike his politics, Bayh has a point. The Senate has been the world's most dysfunctional body lately, thanks to nonsense largely, but not entirely, contributed by Republicans. It seems odd that someone with Bayh's conservative politics would be pointing this out, and making of point of not telling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he was leaving before he told President Obama. Clearly, progressives aren't the only ones dissatisfied with Reid's leadership.
Still more oddly, it was Bayh who pointed out that it would be possible to add a public option to the Senate health care "reform" bill during reconciliation. Yet he was, in general, a fierce opponent of any real health care reform.
Of course, Bayh has never been troubled by the naked conflict of interest his wife's employment on the board of directors of Wellpoint, a leading health care insurance corporation, represents. His opposition to many real health care reform proposals could easily be explained by this financial incentive alone.
Bayh waited until a few days before the filing deadline for the 2010 primary to make this announcement. It almost seems as though he's trying to make it easier for a Republican to win his seat. So whatever good Bayh may be trying to accomplish by criticizing the deadlock in the Senate, it's overshadowed by his fecklessness in not giving his own political party more time to organize a primary.
UPDATE: This quote from Josh Marshall seems to put Bayh's decision in perspective:
Saying Washington is broken and getting a few shout-outs from the Broder gang is almost de rigueur for middle of the road senators, especially Democrats, when they retire. And it's hard to disagree with the judgment in general. Watching what's happened over the last year it's hard not to believe that something is fundamentally off-kilter in our national government -- just not, I think, what Bayh thinks it is. I think the most generous read of Bayh's decision is simply that he was bored. He just said that his decision was in part because he was "an executive at heart," which is probably a very honest explanation. He just preferred being governor. And that's fine. It's another way of saying he was bored.
Bayh had visions of running for President, and did so in 2008, but he had absolutely no success. My guess is that he felt frustrated, and decided that some executive role somewhere would be more to his liking.
I just hope he finds one that won't involve national office.
UPDATE 2: It turns out that there is one Democratic candidate who has been gathering signatures for a primary run:
Indiana Democrats appear to be on a course to name a candidate for Evan Bayh's Senate seat, given the high unlikelihood that another candidate could successfully file the necessary ballot petitions with the state this week in order to enter the primary. But, there is in fact at least one other candidate besides Bayh who was already seeking to get on the ballot.
So, how is Tamyra d'Ippolito, a cafe owner in Bloomington, doing with collecting the 500 petition signatures in each of the state's nine House districts (a requirement that Bayh's campaign had already fulfilled, according to Democratic sources and published media reports)? The deadline to complete the filing process is this week.
Another Dem Already In Race For Bayh's Seat -- But Doesn't Have The Needed Signatures Yet
I don't know much about this woman, other than that the Indiana Democratic Party doesn't seem to want her in the race. To me, that's some good evidence that she'd be more progressive than whoever the IDP's picked candidate will be. In a diary at FireDogLake, t0dd explains:
We need a real Democrat like this in the Senate. If she can somehow gather enough signatures by tomorrow, another worthless blue dog like Bayh won’t be the candidate. You do not need to be in contact with the campaign to get signatures. Just print this form [(PDF)], get signatures of registered voters on it, and get it turned in to your county clerk’s office by noon tomorrow.
Tamyra d’Ippolito: a last minute push to replace Evan Bayh with a real Democrat
Anyone who lives in Indiana and is interested in gathering signatures is encouraged to do so. Having a choice is good. "Tomorrow", incidentally, is Tuesday, February 16.
UPDATE 3: Nate Silver makes the point that, while his voting record was very conservative, Bayh's voting record was moderate given what state he was from. Not quite the way he put it, but that's the gist, I think.
I'm rather skeptical of this sort of ranking. Purely in terms of what he's done for the average American, Bayh is little different from the average Republican (a conclusion that appears to be supported by the graphic in Nate's article). Like GOP claims that whoever they're facing at the moment is the Congress's number one liberal, this strikes me as a claim with little substance. It's nice that we got something out of Bayh that we might not have had he been a typical Republican, but we sure didn't get anything useful, near as I can tell.