Political Hay

A Show About Nothing

Don't Bayh the whining.

By 2.18.10

The claim that "Washington has never been more partisan" is made every year, if not every month. Liberal pols and journalists crank up the cliché machine with clockwork regularity about a "broken system," the lack of "civility," and the need for "bipartisanship." They would prefer the unity of a one-party state where a liberal Caesar could snap his fingers and enact statism overnight.

"I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives," said Senator Evan Bayh in his swan song. "But I do not love Congress."

What a fatuous statement. Who asked him to "make the most of their lives"? That senators even talk in these terms, relying upon New Agey drivel in the place of discernible thought, explains how the federal government went from limited to unlimited. Washington isn't supposed to be a fantasy camp for self-appointed humanitarians; it is supposed to perform a few essential tasks well, not everything badly.

"The vast majority are good, decent people who are trapped in a system that does not let that goodness and decency translate itself into legislative accomplishments," Bayh, referring to senators, said to Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post.

Perhaps, an impressed Marcus wrote, "politics is not the optimal venue" for such wonderful people anymore. "Maybe it's easier to make your mark from the Gates Foundation than from a Senate seat. Maybe the CEO of Google -- your average Google vice president, even -- wields more influence over people's lives than an individual member of Congress." Oh, my.

The assumption underlying arrogant prattle along these lines this week is that visible and ceaseless activity rather than restraint and limitation define a good federal government. It is only "functioning" if Evan Bayh and company get to appear at ribbon-cutting ceremonies to mark the creation of a new government job. It is only "bipartisan" if both sides agree to move to the mid-point between two bad ideas. It is only "civil" if the two parties are colluding to increase the size of this or that program that shouldn't have been created in the first place. And it is only attractive to the "best and brightest" if they enjoy unfettered access to meddle in people's lives.

Demagogic Democrats, after losses in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, are turning faux-aristocratic, mumbling about the ingratitude of the mob. Perhaps a PBS symposium on the "limits of democracy" will have to be held. Or maybe they can just pass around a dog-eared copy of New York magazine's recent piece entitled "Is Democracy Killing Democracy?"

In the meantime, however, the mob needs to be humored and rendered docile by incessant propaganda about "bipartisanship." The proper Pavlovian response to this word is vigorous head-nodding. One is expected to accept without question that it is the cure to Washington's problems when it is usually the cause. The soaring deficits exist because of mindless bipartisanship.

"I've never seen it this dysfunctional," said Joe Biden, who continues to interpret the election results not as a rebuke for proposing a takeover of a sixth of the American economy but for not completing it. "We understand why they're angry," he said. "We get it." What he hears in their discontent is, "Get something going."

A federal government that governs the most governs the best, according to this deluded thinking. If statist legislation passes, the system is humming; if it stalls, the system is "broken." But that's not the form of government devised by the Founding Fathers. Hence, Bayh hates their creation, "Congress," while praising the "goodness" and "decency" of big-government pols.

Perhaps the Democrats shouldn't be holding a healthcare summit but a Constitutional Convention to "fix" the founders' unwieldy system.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.