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The "middle of the road" fallacy
"The extremes of both parties have to be willing to accept compromises." Congress should make changes "so that sensible people can get the job done." Those were two of the statements that Evan Bayh made when he announced he will not run for another term in 2010. It is all bunk.
I could blog about the political ramifications of Bayh dropping out and the timing of his announcement, but that has been beaten to death. I'm not going to say anything that has not already been said hundreds of times all over the blogosphere. What is worth addressing, though, is the content-free populist rhetoric Bayh used to justify his decision not to defend his endangered seat.
Arguably the most intensely partisan battle over public policy has been on health care. What, exactly, does Bayh view as a "compromise" that Republicans should accept? As usual, populist rhetoric about "getting things done" is long on generalities and short on specifics.
For conservatives who believe that one of the problems (if not the problem) with health care is too much government, "compromising" with Democrats on the issue serves as a victory for Democrats. We may not increase government's role as much as Democrats would like, but we still increase the government's role in health care. Conservatives get absolutely nothing out of such a "compromise" solution, while Democrats get a step closer to what they want.
Despite all the flowery talk about reaching across the aisle and working with the other party in the interest of the American people, there are people who have strong ideological leanings about the role of government and the priorities government should have. A solution that expands government less than what statists want is not a compromise - it is a surrender by conservatives. Similarly, a solution that cuts government less than what conservatives want is also not a compromise. It is a surrender by statists.
Evan Bayh's attempt to set himself above the fray and damn both sides is the worst of cynical political gamesmanship. If Evan Bayh was serious about advocating for the American people, he would be proposing specific solutions that he believes would be beneficial and would not whine about those who oppose that solution on philosophical grounds. The thing is, Evan Bayh is not serious at all. He is a born politician, the son of a politician, trying to set himself up to run for office again in the future when the political climate is more favorable.