If you didn't know any better, you'd swear that the partisan gridlock in Washington is something new. Sen. Evan Bayh, of course, is the latest politician to blame partisan rancor for the failure to get something done. "Brain-dead partisanship," he called the system in Washington, while announcing he's done with it.
The Atlantic's James Fallows has had it with pols using this as an excuse. For Bayh, in particular, he suggests naming names.
Unlike everyone else up for election this year, you don't have to worry how this or that bout of truth-telling will look on Election Day. Let 'em bitch! You don't need an interest group to endorse you or a civic club to applaud you any more. Do you think hyperpartisanship is destroying the Senate? Why not call out people -- by name, by specific hypocritical move -- when you see them doing what they should be ashamed of? I guarantee that the press would eat this up. Why not a ten-month public seminar, through the rest of this year, on who is doing what, and how it could be different? Do you object to personal "holds" on nominations? Make it an issue! You have an idea of some issue where Republicans and Democrats might agree? Be specific about it and see what you can do. Again, if I know anything about the press and the melodrama of public life, I know you could turn it to your advantage -- and the public's, Mr. Smith style.
But Congress has been sending the disillusioned home for generations. Sometimes, it keeps them from even trying.
Here's Mike Ciresi's take when he announced in February 2006 that he wouldn't run for the Senate:
"I'm an individual who likes to get things done. The more I watch what was going on in Washington over the past few months, I felt that as soon as I got there, it would be very difficult -- with the way the Senate is presently composed and the way the process is -- to get things done. I think the Democratic Party needs to stand up and say what it stands for. And it's not doing that; it's not getting the leadership out of the Senate, and I think the inertia is overwhelming."
Back when deficits were the #1 issue, former congressman Tim Penny also gave up. In retiring from Congress at the end of his term in 1995, Penny said the pork-barrel brand of politics was a system too ingrained to change. In his co-written book, The 15 Biggest Lies in Politics, he documented the differences Republicans and Democrats don't have in exploiting the system to stay in office and spend money.
When announcements like Bayh's come, this clip gets a good workout in the media:
Perhaps politicians go to Washington looking for Hollywood, only to be disappointed when they find Washington instead.
My working theory is that nothing gets done in Washington because of safe congressional districts which allow undue activist influence. The more frustrated I get with our political system, the more I’m convinced that congressional districts should be drawn by nonpartisan panels of retired judges. Or, after the example of the Minnesota Senate recount, maybe a nonpartisan panel of active judges.