Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 25, 2013

Editorial - Jan. 25, 2013: A message to Congress

The issue: America’s frustration with partisanship.

Our view: Three years after Evan Bayh announced his retirement from the Senate, maybe voting out incumbents is just the shock Washington needs.

Three years ago, some were saying Sen. Evan Bayh dropped his bombshell Feb. 15, 2010, because he feared he’d be trounced in the next election.

Maybe so.

But if that was true, the two-term Hoosier Democrat had tea leaves that saw things far differently than most political analysts at the time. Bayh had a huge lead over the leading Republican challengers in the polls. And he had $13 million in his campaign war chest.

The polls might have grown tighter as Election Day moved closer. Bayh might’ve been faced with the race of his life.

But what if Bayh made his decision to leave the U.S. Senate for exactly the reason he cited? What if the political moderate gave up a 24-year career in public service because he found too few colleagues willing to look for middle ground?

“There’s just too much brain-dead partisanship,” Bayh said in a nationally broadcast interview after his announcement that he would not seek re-election.

He complained that too few individuals in either party seemed willing to reach across the aisle in the spirit of compromise. Partisanship and gridlock, he said, had simply made the job too frustrating.

The general public seemed to share Bayh’s frustration then. It only has grown since.

An Associated Press-GfK poll of January 2010 found 32 percent of respondents approving of how Congress was handling its job. People were split about evenly over whether they wanted their own members of Congress to be re-elected.

Those are high compared to today. Just a few weeks ago, Public Policy Polling released a survey saying Americans had a lower opinion of Congress than of Genghis Khan, head lice and root canals.

Bayh suggested in 2010 that voters could deliver “a shock” to Congress by voting lots of incumbents out of office.

With a third of the Senate and every seat in the House up for election in 2014, maybe that’s just the sort of shock Washington needs.