The 2010 mid term elections were already poised to be a fulcrum for the Democrats and the Obama administration, who have enjoyed one of the largest majorities in decades. But with 11 Senators stepping down or choosing not to seek re-election, this election becomes even more critical.
On Monday, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) became the latest to decide it was time to pursue other interests.
Bayh became the fifth Democratic Senator to announce their intention not to continue. Six Republicans have also made the same decision. Overall, 36 of the 100 Senate seats will be up in the elections this fall. Currently, the Democrats hold a 59-41 majority in the Senate.
The logjam of legislation sitting in the Senate is not reflective of a party who has enjoyed a super majority until the recent Massachusetts special election. The Senate has become the chamber where legislation goes to die. Republicans have made it pretty clear that if the Democrats want any of their legislation to pass, they will need to have the 60 votes necessary to avoid a filibuster.
This mindset allows for only partisan voting, and is completely counterproductive to the process.
The second issue facing congressional leaders is the overwhelming pressure that comes with fund raising. Corporate funds are essential to be able to run ads, travel and maintain the staff necessary to win, and the corporations know it. They are more than happy to pour money into a candidate’s campaign, provided their agenda will be addressed while that candidate is in office.
And the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are nothing more than really rich individuals only fuels the fire.
The growing environment of partisanship coupled with the stress of having to sell your votes to get the funding necessary to get elected is beginning to wear on leaders. Pundits from either side will try and tell you Senators are responding to growing pressure from the public about their role in our government or about their party’s agenda. The reality is the growing pressure to keep your job as a Senator is becoming more important and more challenging than actually doing the job they are elected to do.
Does Sen. Bayh’s decision not to run impact the Democratic Party? Sure, but what we need to be looking at is the impact on our government of the increasing corporate influence on the process. People complain about big government and how it intrudes on our liberties, but what about these conglomerates? When was the last time you voted for the board of directors at Mobil Exxon, or Wells Fargo?
As we close in on 1/3rd of the Senate seats up for election missing an incumbent, perhaps an exit interview with these retiring candidates is needed. Now that they have cut the corporate strings, we may actually hear what they really think.