February 22nd, 2010
11:03 AM ET

Don't blame Congress for leaders' faults

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/02/16/bayh.senate/story.bayhe.gi.jpg caption="Bayh and other politicians have warned of dysfunction in Congress." width=300 height=169]

Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

When Sen. Evan Bayh announced that he would step down from the Senate, he said that Congress had become a dysfunctional institution. "I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives, but I do not love Congress," Bayh lamented.

Bayh is not the only politician or pundit to issue this warning in recent months. There have been an abundance of proclamations that Congress no longer works.

Certainly, the argument has merits. Institutions and process matter very much in American politics. As many commentators, including myself, have written, the constant use of the filibuster by both parties, the power of interest groups and their lobbyists and the intense pressures to fundraise are just a few examples of why legislating is so difficult. There is no disagreement here.

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Filed under: Evan Bayh • Julian E. Zelizer • Opinion
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Alex Valiao (New York)

    Great article but somehow it places a big question mark in my mind more than an answer to the apparent disconnect of the American government with the American people. Our elected officials are voted to "do something about it" versus point fingers on who is to blame. Nothing gets accomplished by pointing fingers as one finger is pointed at the other person but there are 4 fingers pointing back at you. Every politician ( from Congress to POTUS and even to a councilperson) have a responsibility to make a difference and ensure that the government is working. Who are the leaders anyway??? Obviously, they are the ones sitting in the position as they have the ability and power facilitate change (that's why they are elected on the first place). The gridlock, power struggle, and partisanship is a childish behavior reflecting negativity and blindsightedness. Every leader should know this and it just shows that the merit of the man/leader lies on his ability to surpass obstacles and function against the tide or status quo. People need to value their vote wisely. Politicians of today shouldn't just give up and declare retirement. Why don't they start strutting their stuff and remind the American people why they were chosen for the job on the first place. Of course, it will always be a personal choice but I have they think about it seriously.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  2. Tim Gibson

    As goes Reids home state, so goes Reid. Now that the barn is on fire, who will leave town is a good question, and a good start on addressing the problems in congress. To big to fail is not within the framework of our leadership and the bailouts will not come to stimulate a growth on a dead end road to recovery.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:46 am |