Evan Bayh learned early that liberalism and ambition don’t always mix in a red state like Indiana.
It was 30 years ago that Bayh, then a 24-year-old law school student, helped run the re-election campaign of his father, Senator Birch Bayh. An unrepentant liberal with national aspirations (he’d run for president in 1976), the elder Bayh was targeted by a then-emerging network of “New Right” activists and fundraisers, who pilloried him as a big spender and slammed his support for abortion rights, gay rights and school busing.
As expedient as it might have been, Birch Bayh refused to back down from his principles in that campaign, an honorable stand that hastened his demise. On Election Day, he was defeated — handily. By Dan Quayle. At 52, his political career was over.
Evan Bayh inherited all of his father’s drive for national office but none of his progressive backbone. From his father’s defeat, he seemed to draw a lesson: You can dream big dreams if you’re a Democrat from Indiana — you just can’t be proud to be a Democrat. And that has been the defining principle (to the extent there’s been one) in Evan Bayh’s quarter-century political career, which began with a successful 1986 campaign for secretary of state in Indiana and which now may be ending, with his stunning decision to exit the Senate after two terms…
But now, at the age of 54, Bayh’s national window is closing. Three presidential cycles have come and gone since 1998 and he’s still in the Senate. Youth was always part of his selling point, but in 2016 — the next time the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential nomination are likely to be open — he’ll be 60. He can hear the footsteps behind him. It raised the question: What’s the point of staying in the Senate..?
24 years ago, Evan Bayh set out to prove voters that he wasn’t like his father. As his Senate career ends, we can safely say: Mission accomplished.
RTFA. Lots of detail.
Any bookies out there giving odds on which healthcare corporation, insurance company, Bayh will be fronting for in his inevitable return to Congress as a lobbyist? His wife hustled a couple million$ shilling for Wellpoint.