Evan Bayh, former governor of Indiana and a U.S. Senator since 1999, wrote an opinion piece in today's NYTimes, explaining his decision to retire from the Senate. Boiled down to its essence, his reasoning is that it's not a nice place anymore. The decades-long spirit of compromise and mutual respect between liberals and conservatives, even on issues in which their respective ideologies disagreed, has been supplanted by political polarization, rancor, and hostility toward moderates from either party.
I'm thinking, so what? It is precisely our conduct and decisions during the hard times which define us. Did my parents' generation run and hide from the global threat of Hitler's Germany during WWII? No. Did radio journalist Edward R. Murrow shrink from the bully tactics of Senator Eugene McCarthy when McCarthy was painting everyone in sight as a Communist? (See the excellent film Good Night and Good Luck for an intense dramatic portrayal of those times.) No. Famously, McCarthy was challenged during a public hearing in which attorney Joseph Welch admonished, "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness ... Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"
These days the bullies are the cadre of powerful conservative Republicans whose greed, cronyism and arrogance created the worst economy since the Great Depression (which, coupled with two unjustifiable wars, smeared the U.S. in the world's eyes), yet who unflinchingly obstruct all efforts by liberals and moderates to remedy the situation. They and their policies were roundly voted out in 2008, yet their acrimonious and libelous behavior has the American public disgusted with the entire Washington establishment. Like McCarthy, they are little more than overgrown playground bullies. And from them, otherwise decent public servants like Bayh should flinch and run away?
Hell no!! Rise to the occasion, you Democrats and moderates who are trying so hard to be civil. Always leave the door open for rational compromise, but don't just abandon your principles (and the nation) and give up the field. Grow a backbone. Those old lions from both parties who were able to find common ground in the past, woud be ashamed of you.
I'm reminded of the picaresque Don Quixote, that nobel and somewhat delusional knight who, seeing giants, attacked them. In the eyes of onlookers, the "giants" were merely windmills, but it would be a mistake to mock the Don for his delusion. In a grand and paradoxical manner, he was true to his beliefs, and in taking on the insurmountable, proved it to be merely ordinary. Obstructionist conservatives are the windmills of today. Have at them !!
The Impossible Dream (listen here)
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To live pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star