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
February 15th, 2010
08:58 PM ET

Is it too tough to be a centrist Democrat?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/02/15/bayh.centrist.democrats/story.bayhe.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Evan Bayh, a former two-term governor, was elected to the Senate in 1998." width=300 height=169]

Ed Hornick

Facing a backlash from the liberal wing of their party, Sen. Evan Bayh and other centrist Democrats are examining their re-election options and deciding to simply walk away, political analysts note.

"Because Democrats are scared, some people are saying 'it's not worth it ... there's not a place for my voice,' " said political analyst Jennifer Donahue. "It's looking like an exodus - between him and Sen. Chris Dodd and open seats that look like they could easily be Republican pickups."

But it not's just centrist Democrats feeling the heat from the edges of their party - former GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth announced on Monday that he would take on Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party's last presidential candidate, in his home state of Arizona.

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Filed under: Democrats • Evan Bayh • Raw Politics