The Atlantic's James Fallows doesn't pretend
to think that Senator Evan Bayh's sudden retirement is anything but "graceless." Bayh, a moderate Democrat, is drawing fire from liberals
for harming his own party. But rather than attacking Bayh or dissecting his long-shot 2012 president prospects, Fallows makes a serious recommendation to Bayh: the next several months before his retirement could be his single greatest opportunity for a great and lasting legacy.
Here's a constructive suggestion: Do you really care about the
partisanship that is ruining public life and that, as you said, has
driven you from the Senate, Mr. Bayh? Then why not use the fact that
you are still in the U.S. Senate for most of another year -- a platform
99.999% of Americans will never occupy -- and apply all the power you
can to advance causes you care about. What is holding you back?
everyone else up for election this year, you don't have to worry how
this or that bout of truth-telling will look on Election Day. Let 'em
bitch! You don't need an interest group to endorse you or a civic club
to applaud you any more. Do you think hyperpartisanship is destroying
the Senate? Why not call out people -- by name, by specific
hypocritical move -- when you see them doing what they should be
ashamed of? I guarantee that the press would eat this up. Why not a
ten-month public seminar, through the rest of this year, on who is
doing what, and how it could be different? Do you object to personal
"holds" on nominations? Make it an issue! You have an idea of some
issue where Republicans and Democrats might agree? Be specific about it
and see what you can do. Again, if I know anything about the press and
the melodrama of public life, I know you could turn it to your
advantage -- and the public's, Mr. Smith style.
Fallows concludes by drawing contrast with Evan Bayh's father, Birch Bayh, a much more liberal Senator whose legacy is still cherished by Democrats. Could son Evan transform, before November, from fit-throwing quitter into a similarly beloved figure? Says Fallows, "I can always dream."
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