Dick Lugar didn’t merely lose Tuesday night.
The Indiana Republican Party that he had led and served for parts of five decades thoroughly repudiated him, rejecting him and all he stands for by some 20 percentage points. It shouldn’t have ended that way for Lugar, Matthew Tully writes in the Indianapolis Star:
“… a lawmaker who spent decades diligently addressing big issues and tackling looming crises shouldn’t be treated as a pariah simply because he viewed the other side as fellow Americans, and not enemy combatants. But that’s what happened Tuesday night as one of the state’s most accomplished political careers crashed to an end.”
The man who defeated Lugar, Richard Mourdock, proposes to abolish the IRS and says he has a plan to cut federal spending by $7.6 trillion. But most of all, he promised Republican voters in Indiana that he had no interest in bipartisanship.
“Bipartisanship has taken us to the brink of bankruptcy,” he told a crowd Monday. “It is not bipartisanship we need, it is principle.”
And compromise? In Mourdock’s mind, politics is not the art of compromise. Politics is war.
“I’ve said it many times. This is a historic time, and the most powerful people in both parties are so opposed to one another that one side simply has to win out over the other.”
That is the vision that Indiana Republicans thoroughly embraced Tuesday. It is a vision that treats government not as a mechanism for making decisions and solving problems, but instead as a battlefield in which every vote, every action is an act of war against the enemy.
It is a mindset that does not bode well for our nation’s future.
UPDATE at 9:20: Here’s an excerpt from a statement released by Sen. Lugar that is right on point:
“Legislators should have an ideological grounding and strong beliefs identifiable to their constituents. I believe I have offered that throughout my career. But ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively, and for the fortitude to sometimes disagree with your party or even your constituents. Like Edmund Burke, I believe leaders owe the people they represent their best judgment.
Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times. Certainly this was understood by President Reagan, who worked with Democrats frequently and showed flexibility that would be ridiculed today – from assenting to tax increases in the 1983 Social Security fix, to compromising on landmark tax reform legislation in 1986, to advancing arms control agreements in his second term.
I don’t remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform, and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader.
I hope that as a nation we aspire to more than that. I hope we will demand judgment from our leaders. I continue to believe that Hoosiers value constructive leadership. I would not have run for office if I did not believe that.”
– Jay Bookman