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Will Evan Bayh's decision to retire from the U.S. Senate do anything to change what's wrong in Washington? Call it what you want: gridlock, partisanship or catharsis. No matter the name, the lack of bipartisan dialogue or respect for the opinions of others and the downright poisonous atmosphere keeps reasonable legislators like Bayh from doing what they were elected to do, help ordinary Americans.
We don't blame him for throwing up his arms.
"To put it in words most people can understand: I love working for the people of Indiana, I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives, but I do not love Congress," Bayh said Monday.
What's there to love about a two-party system in which moderates and compromisers are ignored, even ridiculed by pundits, and only the shrillest voices make the evening news? The result is a breakdown in the legislative process that ignores the pressing needs of the American people. The nation's capital has become a sandbox in which too many legislators have become children unwilling to work together in the task of governing.
Too many Democrats can't agree with one another and most Republicans, so eager to point out the other party's failings, sit on their hands and say "no" to just about everything. Moderates like Bayh, meanwhile, find little support. The two-term senator admitted his frustration this week.
"For some time, I have had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should. There is too much partisanship and not enough progress, too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous challenge, the people's business is not being done."
Bayh, who turned down a personal appeal by President Barack Obama to seek a third term, cited the Senate's vote against a bipartisan commission to deal with exploding deficits and debt as one recent great disappointment.
"The measure would have passed, but seven members who had endorsed the idea instead voted "no" for short-term political reasons," Bayh said.
Sadly, we suspect the next person to fill Bayh's seat, no matter his or her party affiliation, will be less of a moderate. Hoosiers are known for their ability to solve problems, to support a good cause and to find common ground when reasonable people disagree.
"I am constantly reminded that if Washington, D.C., could be more like Indiana, Washington would be a better place," the senator said. We agree. And we hope the person following him will hold a similar view. Hoosiers should vote for someone, like Bayh, who tried to fix Washington, not a politician who only wants to add a voice to an already deafening roar.
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