Congress now focused on politics, not fixing problems

Moderate Democrat Evan Bayh is leaving the Senate because the situation has become dysfunctional. It should be a wake-up call.

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Those elected to Congress should be focused on doing what's best for the nation.

And, at one time (and not so long ago), that was the case. Not anymore.

Today, too many senators and representatives seem more interested in advancing the agendas of their political parties. Unfortunately, the aims of the Republican and Democratic parties don't necessarily mesh with the concerns of most Americans. The parties have become too conservative and too liberal, which means they too often ignore the concerns of the mainstream middle.

It's taking a toll.

Last week Sen. Evan Bayh, a moderate Democrat from Indiana, tossed in the towel. He announced he would not be seeking re-election.

Bayh has simply had enough of what he called the poisonous political environment surrounding Washington, D.C., and the gridlock that is allowing big national problems to worsen.

"It's a pervasive feeling that has taken hold," former House member Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., told the Los Angeles Times. "The low ratings and criticism of Congress, the lack of progress on policy, the excessive partisanship that has gripped the place, has made everyone much more aware of the disadvantage of remaining in office."

Bayh's announcement was a bit of a surprise since polls show he has a comfortable lead over his five Republican challengers.

Well, despite conventional wisdom, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steel, contends Bayh is quitting because he doesn't want to lose in November.

"Sen. Evan Bayh and moderate Democrats across the country are running for the hills because they have sold out their constituents and don't want to face them at the ballot box," Steel said.

It is not the moderates -- from either party -- who have sold out their constituents. It is those who put partisan politics and it's us-vs.-them mentality ahead of trying to solve the nation's problems.

Bayh pointed to two recent incidents in the Senate as examples of his frustration.

When a bipartisan group recently recommended to Democratic Party leaders an $85 billion job-creation bill, it came under fire by liberals and conservatives, and was dramatically scaled back as a result.

And when the Senate voted on a Bayh-backed bill to create a commission to reduce the federal deficit, it was voted down because seven Republicans, who had originally sponsored the idea, bowed to political pressure and changed sides.

"Even at a time of enormous challenge, the people's business is not being done," Bayh said.

He is right. Partisan politics is now playing too big a role in shaping the national debate, particularly in Congress.

Bayh's decision to walk away from this dysfunction should be a wake-up call for the nation.

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