Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Evan Bayh: From Possible Obama VP to Backstabber

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Originally published on on Wed, 03/25/2009 – 10:47am

If we go back all the way to the third full week in August 2008, we saw that there were three unofficial nominees for Barack Obama’s running mate: now VP Joe Biden, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, and Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN). Bayh seemed to be the odd figure in that group: he was plenty conservative and a huge Hillary Clinton supporter when she ran for president. But despite the differences and potential awkwardness, Obama thought highly of him to seriously consider him for the job.

You would think that such trust and appreciation would lend itself well in future interactions. But seven months later, Bayh is leading a group of Democrats committed to halting necessary legislation that Obama thinks we need to get this country moving forward again.

As the O’Jays put it, “They smile in your face; All the time they want to take your place; The back stabbers.”

Everyone is aware that there are moderate Democrats, some of them bending over backwards to please the Republican overlords. Watching Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) on Rachel Maddow’s show was nauseating enough. And some of those moderate Democrats don’t always feel the same way on several key issues.

But the time to organize this group would have been 2001 or 2007, so the better question is not “Why” but “Why now?”

We have already seen the damage done by the moderate Democrats to the stimulus bill, and they weren’t organized as a group.

Bayh’s Conservadem group has gained strength from some of its newest members: Mark Begich (AK), Michael Bennet (CO), Kay Hagan (NC), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Udall (CO), and Mark Warner (VA). All but Bennet did get help from Obama to get elected, and Obama won all their states except for Alaska.

There are the two other leaders, Blanche Lambert Lincoln (AR) and Thomas R. Carper (DE), along with Herb Kohl (WI), Mary Landrieu (LA), Claire McCaskill (MO), Ben Nelson (NE), Bill Nelson (FL), and of course, everyone’s “favorite” “Independent Democrat,” Joe Lieberman (CT).

But clearly, the leader and organizer of this non-pitchfork mob is Bayh. One intriguing area where Obama and Bayh also have commonality is that they have both been keynote speakers at the Democratic National Convention (Obama in 2004 and Bayh in 1996). Since then, Bayh has been a bridesmaid when it comes to VP possibilities: 2008 was the third consecutive presidential year where Bayh was a serious VP contender.

Bayh is also up for re-election in 2010, but has had an easy time winning races so far in Indiana. If his efforts in establishing this group are motivated by re-election possibilities, Bayh could have done a lot less and protected his chances.

Bayh said on MSNBC that “we care about our country more than our party, and so we want to get things done.”

If that were true, the group never would have formed. These centrist Democrats, who admittedly are concerned about the size of the deficit, though they didn’t speak up for the last eight years, would have realized that growing the deficit short-term is necessary to get us out of our deep economic downturn. They would have swallowed their pride, and later put pressure on Obama to reduce the deficit, though they did no such thing when Bush was in power.

It’s difficult to believe Ben Nelson is sincere when President Obama wants to save money by eliminating private funding of student loans — more money for students while saving taxpayers money — yet Nelson is vehemently opposed to doing so.

But like some Republicans, these centrist Democrats aren’t concerned about the deficit itself, they are focused on what we are spending the money on. When we spend money on Iraq, that’s okay with them. When we spend on money on people and programs here in the United States (where we all live), then the pocketbook concerns suddenly spring up.

Ironically, if they were concerned about the party, they would stand up with Obama, since if Obama doesn’t succeed due to underfunded programs perhaps due to meddling by centrist Democrats, they will suffer as well. Some of these freshman senators might be worried about that less than 6 years from now.

In the group’s introductory press release, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who praised the group, said, “If we are going to deliver the change Americans demanded and move our country forward, it will require the courage to get past our political differences and get to work.” But what Reid doesn’t get is that this group is designed to embrace those political differences, not set them aside.

Barack Obama has had many challenges on his plate, and very little cooperation to speak of so far. He reached out to Congressional Republicans in ways not seen in decades, and was rebutted. His dealings with centrist Democrats when they weren’t organized went sour when they felt it necessary to do even more damage to the stimulus bill.

Bayh summed it up well in the MSNBC interview in terms of getting legislation passed. “And it’s going to take the centrists to get us there. And so we want to help make the changes we need. And that’s — that’s what our group is all about.”

No, the group is all about reducing the domestic spending we need to recover from the failed policies that they embraced from the other major party. It’s bad enough when those on the other team aren’t amenable, but when your own teammates won’t help, Obama’s presidency will just be that much rougher.


Written by democracysoup

March 25, 2009 at 10:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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