Top Democrat quits in disgust

RUPERT CORNWELL

Washington

Proclaiming his disgust at a "broken" political system, one of the US Senate's most respected members announced yesterday he will step down when his current term expires next year, and simultaneously ended speculation that he might challenge Bill Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1996.

The retirement of Bill Bradley, a 52-year-old New Jersey Democrat, public policy expert, Rhodes scholar and former professional basketball star, accelerates the premature collapse of an entire generation of thoughtful, centrist Democrats, once regarded as the backbone of the party.

His decision brings to six the number of incumbent Democrats who will step down next year. At least two others are expected to follow suit.

Senator Bradley's retirement will deprive the Senate of a very experienced and thoughtful voice, long considered to be of White House calibre. It also makes it even less likely that the Democrats can next year recapture control of the Senate, where the Republicans now have a 54- 46 majority.

Caught between the strident oratory of dominant conservative Republicans and the increasing populism of his own Democrats, Mr Bradley's voice has been largely drowned out on Capitol Hill. Even before he withdrew yesterday, his seat was considered vulnerable by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Announcing his decision to friends and supporters in Newark, Mr Bradley said he would not leave public life entirely, but that 18 years in the Senate had been enough.

"Politics on a basic level is broken," he said. "In growing numbers people have lost faith in the political process, and don't see how it can help their threatened economic circumstances."

Since his election in 1978, Mr Bradley has been among his party's brightest stars, combining the celebrity of a former New York Knicks hero with an ability to argue creatively on issues as varied as tax policy, the Soviet Union, and race, crime and inner cities. In an increasingly polarised two-party system, he has been an unswerving moderate, and for more than a decade talk has surfaced of a Bradley presidential run - most recently this year when he became openly critical of Mr Clinton's performance.

However, his recent political base has been a good deal less secure than his reputation, and it was only the timing of yesterday's announcement that caused surprise. He came within an ace of defeat in 1990 at the hands of the then unknown Christine Todd Whitman. She is now a tax-cutting and much admired governor of New Jersey, widely tipped for the vice-presidential slot on the 1996 Republican ticket.

As her star has waxed, so has Mr Bradley's waned. The shock of near-defeat at home forced him to drop any plans of a 1992 White House run. Since then, both his influence within the Senate and his fundraising abilities in New Jersey have ebbed. In 1990, he outspent Mrs Whitman $12m to $1m. This time the leading Republican contender has raised twice as much money as the sitting Senator, even before he is nominated.

With at least three of the vacated seats in the increasingly Republican South, the Democrats will do well to maintain their present strength. Contrary to predictions in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Republican landslide, the party is now given a better - albeit a long-shot - chance of regaining the House of Representatives than the Senate.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker