So Evan Bayh is quitting the US Senate race, possibly handing that seat from Indiana to the Republicans. That’s bad, but the truth is, he won’t be missed.
Bayh is usually described as a “moderate”, which is more an indication of how far to the right the centre of American politics has shifted than any true descriptor of Bayh. As part of the conservative Democratic Leadership Council, the best one could say he is that he was a “right of centre” Democrat, but “conservative” is the accurate and best descriptor.
And yet, he could do some things right: Over the past three Congresses (basically his final term), he steadily improved his vote-rating on GLBT issues backed by HRC: 75% in the 108th, 89% in the 109th and 90% in the 110th. He also correctly voted against confirmation of US Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, among others.
However, Bayh was also an enthusiastic early supporter of the Iraq War, though in 2004 he called for Donald Rumsfeld to resign after Rumsfeld’s disastrous handling of the war. Worst, he voted to reauthorize the “Patriot Act” in 2006, by which time it was clear how truly despicable that legislation truly was.
He was also known for whining—rather a lot, actually—about how bad his fellow Democrats were, and he carried that through to his announcement that he was quitting the race. He criticised both parties, but he was, kind of typically, not entirely thorough. In talking about the jobs bill, he neglected to mention that the reason it was killed was that it included billions in tax cuts for the rich and super rich. I have no idea if he was being dishonest or just didn’t know what was in the bill, but either way it wasn’t as he said.
On balance, he was a pretty middling Senator: He voted correctly sometimes, badly other times, and is unlikely to be remembered for much of anything after he’s gone. That means he’s also unlikely to be missed, certainly not like his father still is.