Posted by: bkivey | 11 November 2010

20/20 Hindsight

In the 7 November issue the local paper of record published a piece by the retiring junior Senator from Indiana in which he outlined some points for the Democrat party to consider as they assess ways to recover from the beatdown they received on 2 November. Evan Bayh announced his retirement prior to the 2010 elections amid speculation that he would not be able to win re-election, and in fact the GOP nominee for the vacant seat won by a 55% – 40% margin with the remaining 5% going to the Libertarian challenger.

While it’s always gratifying to see people learn from their mistakes, Mr. Bayh’s prescriptions for Democrat Party rebuilding ring a bit hollow, as he is guilty of many of the offenses he cites as reasons the Democrats were beaten so badly, and he doesn’t actually have to stick his neck out to implement the reforms he advocates.

After mentioning that Democrats over-interpreted their mandate in 2008, he goes on to say that maybe focusing their efforts on a $1 trillion health-care law was perhaps not the best idea given the state of the economy. Many, many people would, and did, argue that increasing the Federal budget by $1 trillion is never a good idea, yet Mr. Bayh voted ‘Yes’ for the Health Care Reconciliation Act, aka Obamacare. Unlike buying a toaster, voting for legislation or electing a President is not something you can just decide you don’t really want and return to the store in 30 days. While presidential elections come around every four years, legislation tends to be more or less permanent.

Mr. Bayh says that every policy decision must be viewed in light of whether it helps the economy grow, and then he offers tax reform, in a call for lower taxes, as a good place to start. Yet five paragraphs earlier in his essay he calls for repeal of tax cuts enacted during the Bush presidency. Here is an example of ideological blindness and cognitive dissonance not exclusive to Democrats, but certainly more noticable among them. Apparently Mr. Bayh believes that ideas that benefit the country are only worthy if they come from his side of the aisle.

The soon-to-be-former Senator goes on to say that Democrats are going to have to make a series of tough choices, including banning earmarks, freezing federal hiring and pay increases, and proposing some sort of entitlement reform. While leaving aside the tendency of Democrat-initiated ‘reform’ measures to increase spending, I’d say it’s a safe bet that none of this is going to happen. People who identify as Democrats tend to be folks who don’t like to make tough choices. Democrats are generally people whose primary motivation is to be liked, and if you tell people that they can’t have something, especially something you’ve already promised, you’re not going to be too popular. Leadership sometimes involves making unpopular choices for the greater good, and that’s not something Democrats are good at.

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