Instead Of Complaining About It, Why Doesn’t Evan Bayh Stay And Help Fix It?
Evan Bayh has a long op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Why I’m Leaving the Senate.” After reading it, I’m not sure why he’s leaving, other than that there’s too much hostility between sides and you can’t get anything done because of the filibuster.
There are many causes for the dysfunction: strident partisanship, unyielding ideology, a corrosive system of campaign financing, gerrymandering of House districts, endless filibusters, holds on executive appointees in the Senate, dwindling social interaction between senators of opposing parties and a caucus system that promotes party unity at the expense of bipartisan consensus.
Party unity? Like how all 60 Democratic senators walk in lockstep?
When I was a boy, members of Congress from both parties, along with their families, would routinely visit our home for dinner or the holidays. This type of social interaction hardly ever happens today and we are the poorer for it. It is much harder to demonize someone when you know his family or have visited his home. Today, members routinely campaign against each other, raise donations against each other and force votes on trivial amendments written solely to provide fodder for the next negative attack ad. It’s difficult to work with members actively plotting your demise.
Bayh has some decent proposals.
Let’s start with a simple proposal: why not have a monthly lunch of all 100 senators? Every week, the parties already meet for a caucus lunch. Democrats gather in one room, Republicans in another, and no bipartisan interaction takes place. With a monthly lunch of all senators, we could pick a topic and have each side make a brief presentation followed by questions and answers. Listening to one another, absent the posturing and public talking points, could only promote greater understanding, which is necessary to real progress.
Okay, then why not stay and work toward such collegiality?
While fundamental campaign finance reform may ultimately require a constitutional amendment, there are less drastic steps we can take to curb the distorting influence of money in politics. Congress should consider ways to lessen the impact of the Citizens United decision through legislation to enhance disclosure requirements, require corporate donors to appear in the political ads they finance and prohibit government contractors or bailout beneficiaries from spending money on political campaigns.
Then why not stay and take the lead on this?
In addition, the Senate should reform a practice increasingly abused by both parties, the filibuster. Historically, the filibuster was employed to ensure that momentous issues receive a full and fair hearing. Instead, it has come to serve the exact opposite purpose — to prevent the Senate from even conducting routine business.
Work to change it. Be a reformer.
But are these reasons enough for Bayh to depart? Is there some other, unstated, reason? Concern he won’t win reelection? A big job somewhere? Just asking.Click here for reuse options!
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