Whose Dream?

>> Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Peter Beinart's reaction to Bayh's resignation is...odd:

Obama’s general-election win in Indiana, along with his victories in North Carolina and Virginia, were central to his claim that he was transcending the red-blue divide, creating a new, less-polarized political map, an enduring Democratic majority of the kind that had been lost when Robert Kennedy was gunned down.

It’s this dream that, for the foreseeable future, Evan Bayh’s retirement likely forecloses. Republicans will probably take the seat, giving them both of the Hoosier State’s seats in the Senate, along with its gubernatorial mansion. Obama’s climate-change agenda is unpopular in Indiana and his health-care reform effort is not faring much better. If a conservative Democrat like Bayh fears he can’t win reelection in the state, it’s hard to imagine how Obama himself can win it again, absent a major shift in economic conditions.

Three points:

  • By all accounts, Bayh's resignation wasn't driven by a fear that he would lose, and he had a commanding lead in the polls.
  • I'm not sure who, exactly, dreamed that Obama's narrow victory in Indiana was anything but an anomaly. Anyone remotely knowledgeable about politics would have made the GOP overwhelming favorites there in 2012, and putting together a viable Democratic coalition hardly requires that party carry one of the most consistently Republican states in the country. I'm also not sure what RFK's ability to assemble a winning coalition in a Democratic primary has to do with anything.
  • One suspects that the real "dream" here is the same one that causes people who actually get paid to write about politics for a living to indulge in ludicrous fantasies about Evan Bayh mounting a credible primary challenge to an incumbent president from the right. That is, the dream seems to be a political landscape in which one party appeals to the median voter of Indiana while the other appeals to the median voter of Alabama. Those of us who regard this as a nightmare are less likely to be broken up about Bayh picking up his ball and crying all the way home about President Obama not letting conservative Democrats and Republicans completely control Congress.


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