Since President Obama’s elevation to Intergalactic Superstar Caesar in November 2008, the media has been busy writing obituaries for the GOP. Most of these unwelcome mourners have offered nuggets of advice along the lines of, “Why don’t you try being more, you know, like us? More–what’s the term? Oh yes, more moderate. Conservatism is so last season.” The day after Obama’s election, the Huffington Post gleefully announced “GOP Civil War Begins[!!!!!!]”
Being the tenderhearted folks they are, the liberal MSM diagnosed the real problem for us: “[I]f there’s a real crisis in the House right now for the Republican Party, it’s the gradually diminishing voice of moderation.” Over a year later, MSNBC was still going strong with the GOP civil war theme, warning that an ideological purity test “threatens to derail moderate Republican candidacies in heated 2010 Republican primaries already underway.”
Obviously, there have been and are ongoing arguments about the direction of conservatism and the Republican party. The 2008 election would’ve shaken the confidence of Alexander the Great, had he been a political candidate instead of a slaughtering conqueror. But the media is missing the real story again. The story now isn’t the demise of the GOP moderate. It’s the sudden downfall of last season’s debutante, the “moderate Democrat.”
Think back to 2006 for a moment. That year, moderate Democrats were all the rage. The New York Times wrote a story on the conservative Democrats who were threatening Republican seats. That year, Heath Shuler defeated GOP incumbent Charles Taylor. Joe Donnelly took an Indiana district from GOP incumbent Chris Chocola. And in 2008, candidate Obama promised to move beyond red states and blue states.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the GOP moderate’s funeral. The post-partisan healer turned into The Thing That Ate The GDP. Faced with the prospect of NHS-style health care and death by a thousand T-bill cuts, discontent began to spread through the populace. What first seemed to be an isolated outbreak in the Southern backwoods turned into a pandemic that claimed victims as far away as the sacred ground of Massachusetts.
Democrat moderates saw their political careers begin circling the drain. Meanwhile, Republican moderates seem hale and hearty (the oleaginous Charlie Crist notwithstanding.)
This is what Obama has brought to his party. Instead of reducing the GOP to a rump party, formerly secure members of his own party are headed for the hills, pausing just long enough to leave a note. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana is the perfect example. Considered a moderate by his party, he “started tacking to the right almost immediately after Obama’s election,” as the Huffington Post notes. He’s managed to win five statewide races in Indiana during his political career, a state that last year voted for the Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in decades. Yet he’s retiring. Why?
Former vice-president Dan Quayle, who formerly represented the Hoosier State in the Senate, notes that Bayh “tried to run for president, was passed over by Obama as a vice-presidential candidate, and he’s not in the Democratic Senate leadership . . . . ” In other words, the party of Barack Obama and Harry Reid doesn’t have room for Evan Bayh. Oddly enough, the party of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner does have room for Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.
More important than the usual ejection of moderates from the Democratic party, though, is the political havoc Obama has wreaked on his own party members. Bayh is the fifth Democrat to announce his retirement from the Senate, and his announcement follows hard on the heels of Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s decision to retire. A friend in Indiana informs me that billboards with the message, “Don’t let Evan Bayh destroy jobs!” have sprouted along the interstates. Remaining Democrats are feeling vulnerable, particularly Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid.
But is Obama giving them some cover? No way! Full steam ahead, baby, right over that electoral cliff. This lack of loyalty could be why Bayh waited until the day before the Indiana petition submission deadline to announce his retirement. Whatever the reason, Sen. Bayh, I thank you. And thanks to you too, Mr. President. Keep up the good work.