The media, liberal Republicans like David Frum, and every left-winger out there has for a year decried, bemoaned, ridiculed, and laughed at conservatives for an alleged “purity test” for candidates. …
But what of yesterday? Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana is bidding goodbye to the United States Senate. He’s had enough. But why? Well, CNN reports this little gem that might otherwise be missed:
“He hates the Senate, hates the left bloggers,” a friend and longtime adviser to Bayh said. “They are getting their wish, pure Democrats in the minority.”
So the left has a purity test? They are running Evan Bayh out of the Senate because he is not liberal enough? Really?
I hope the media and David Frum will spill as much ink and exhale as much carbon dioxide on this as they have the conservative movement’s alleged purge.
The answer comes in four parts.
2) But of course I spend more time and energy on the challenges facing my own party than the challenges facing the other. I care more about my party. I want it to win and I want it then to govern well after it wins. As to self-destructive tendencies in the Democratic party: from my point of view, those are opportunities, not problems.
3) The more troubled the Democratic party, the more urgent it is that Republicans get their house in order so that they can both campaign and govern effectively. As Bayh steps down, and the chances of Republican gains in Congress improve, it becomes even more worrisome that our party’s definition of purity points in directions that do not lead to effective governance.
4) As many political scientists have demonstrated, the parties are becoming more polarized even though the electorate is not. The cause of the “disconnect” (as Morris Fiorina calls it)? Party elites, both Democratic and Republican, have found ways to take command of party institutions and steer their organizations further and further away from the broad preferences of the country. Activists wish their parties to be as conservative (or as liberal) as they can get away with – and voters are confronted at election time with the job of deciding which of two unappealing alternatives is the less obnoxious. It’s endlessly ironic to me that the people most enthusiastic about commandeering parties in this way will describe themselves as “populist” – and condemn as “elitist” those who think that good politics tries to solve the problems that most voters regard as most important.