Evan Bayh Wants Me To Like Him, Can’t Quite Seal the Deal

I guess I’ll add my voice to the chorus of writers with an interest in Congressional reform offering praise to Evan Bayh’s guest Op-Ed in yesterday New York Times. Not only does Bayh identify issues like the filibuster and campaign finance demands as major obstacles to functioning governance, he actually brings proposals to reform them. He doesn’t go as far as I’d like, which is to say I think his ideas are still sub-optimal, but they’re a step in the right direction, which is better than nothing.

However, Bayh being, well, Evan Bayh, he just can’t resist indulging in the elitist/centrist wankery of yearning for the comity of yore. You see a lot of this in the commentary from the Broderian circle of Beltway pundits, and the implicit premise is that partisan identification is basically arbitrary, and of no more significance than, say, which football team you root for. It’s as though they really do imagine there’s some singular, obvious, solution to the problem, and the only thing preventing it from being enacted is partisan squabbling, with the solution being that everyone should “put politics aside” and agree on things. Completely foreign to this worldview, of course, is the idea that partisan identification actually says things abouta persons beliefs, values, and ideological convictions. It doesn’t recognize that people actually disagree about issues, or that that these differences are sometimes irreconcialable. It is, in other words, the way someone without a single deeply held conviction, or a sense of purpose about issues, would look at politics. And for as much as I might want to credit the guy for calling attention to the problems in the Senate, I just can’t get over that such emptiness really is the essence of Evan Bayh’s being.

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