Bayh needs better talking points

BAYH NEEDS BETTER TALKING POINTS…. The NYT‘s Adam Nagourney has an item today that hints at a meme that the media establishment will be eager to embrace: when Democrats were swept into office, they misread their mandate.

Some of the party’s least progressive leaders seem anxious to help.

Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, said the atmosphere was a serious threat to Democrats. “I do think there’s a chance that Congressional elites mistook their mandate,” Mr. Bayh said. “I don’t think the American people last year voted for higher taxes, higher deficits and a more intrusive government. But there’s a perception that that is what they are getting.”

Perhaps. But wouldn’t that “perception,” which is clearly wrong, be easier to correct if leading senators like Evan Bayh were more forcefully setting the record straight?

I obviously didn’t hear the full exchange between Bayh and Nagourney; maybe the Hoosier offered a strong defense of the party that didn’t make the article. But the quote is a bit of a mess. After all, Obama and congressional Dems cut taxes with the recovery package; the huge deficits were inherited from Bush/Cheney fiscal irresponsibility; and the government isn’t becoming more “intrusive,” especially when compared to the GOP officials who endorsed warrantless surveillance of Americans’ communications.

There are, no doubt, widespread misperceptions about the public policy landscape. What Republicans lack in reason and governing abilities they make up for with an unparalleled ability to get people to believe things that aren’t true. But isn’t that why it’s up to prominent Democratic lawmakers like Evan Bayh to help highlight the truth?

As for the bigger picture, I’m not entirely sure what the larger point — the “mistook their mandate” tack — even means. Democrats presented voters with a policy agenda, and the electorate handed the party the reins. Since then, despite unprecedented obstructionism from Republicans, Dems have gone about trying to pass the agenda the party ran on.

Isn’t that what majority parties are supposed to do? How would Bayh have preferred to see Democrats govern in 2009?