DANIEL SCHORR: Since Senator Evan Bayh's unexpected announcement that he will not run for a third term, the chorus of anti-politician anger on the call-in shows has become mingled with a chorus of dismay.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.
SCHORR: Bayh was the fifth Senate Democrat to bow out and his stated reason for doing so encapsulated the dilemma of a Congress that has become close to non-functioning. At a meeting of President Obama and Senate Democrats earlier this month, Senator Bayh expressed his frustration and challenged the president to show voters that Democrats can get past politics and solve problems such as the budget deficit. Mr. Obama responded with an attack on Republican failure to deal with the deficit and he blamed the Republicans for the financial crisis, which only underline the impression of a dysfunctional government bogged down in rancorous partisanship.
It's become commonplace to blame politicians as the class and to suggest that what is needed is a new Congress. It may be that what is really needed is a new electorate. The present Congress reflects some of the voter anger at politicians fed by news media portrayals of scandal and corruption in the government. Gridlock is produced by legislators trying to respond to the anger of their constituents. Too much partisanship, not enough progress, as Senator Bayh explaining his bye-bye to Congress.
The Bayh defection coming on top of the stunning Democratic loss of the Kennedy seat in Massachusetts reveals a threatening fault line running under the political scene. And we can expect further aftershocks with two-thirds of Americans revealed in a Washington Post-ABC news poll as dissatisfied or downright angry with the way government works or doesn't.
That this will have electoral consequences goes without saying. But the sullen mood of America goes beyond shifting party loyalties. Many Americans seem close to rejecting the whole machinery of government that Evan Bayh found wanting. What happens when the people turn their back on their government is a phenomenon that this democracy has yet to experience.
This is Daniel Schorr.
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