As the World Turns…

My very first “official” political position was as chair of something called “the 71 Committee for Lugar for Mayor.” It was a Jewish community group supporting Dick Lugar for Mayor back in 1971.  I continued to support Lugar over the years, even as he became more and more conservative, and even after I left the GOP, partly because he is so solid on foreign policy and partly because the Democrats have thus far failed to offer any strong candidates as alternatives.

The recent Tea Party opposition to Lugar’s re-election is a perfect example of what has happened to the Republican Party. As the party has become more radical, officeholders have found it necessary to pander to a base that is increasingly composed of rabid ideologues. Highly intelligent people like Dick Lugar have had to choose between playing to the sensibilities of that base and losing elective office. Thus far, Lugar has managed that balancing act pretty adroitly; he’s been sufficiently right-wing on domestic issues to placate the crazies, and that strategy has allowed him to pursue the sensible, nuanced international policies for which he is known.

However, the right wing of the party has gotten steadily more intolerant of any deviation from their “agenda” of bumper sticker platitudes, and increasingly suspicious of anything that looks like intellect. The continued “Palin-ization” of the GOP can be seen in its increased hostility to complexity, its dismissal of science and rejection of empirical evidence, and its absolute opposition to anything that smacks of “elitism”—which apparently is defined by actually knowing what you are talking about, or (God forbid) having a degree from a decent university.

So now we have Richard Mourdock, our intellectually-limited State Treasurer, announcing a primary challenge to Lugar. Mourdock’s last foray into public policy was his lawsuit to withdraw Indiana from the Chrysler bankruptcy settlement negotiated by the creditors—despite the fact that he had previously signed a binding agreement to abide by whatever settlement the creditors’ committee negotiated and despite the further fact that Indiana did better financially under that settlement than it would have if he won the lawsuit.

In a sane world, Lugar would make short work of someone like Mourdock, and the odds still favor that result. But given the current mindlessness and anger of the Tea Party folks, and the fact that they are far more likely to come out to vote in a primary than the party’s dispirited moderates, I would be reluctant to place a very big wager.


  1. Ok, what this means is that a whole lot of Democrats are going to have to vote in the Republican primaries across the state to save Lugar. Not an easy task to ask my progressive friends to save someone who votes against my own issues.. but to allow Mourdock to pass through.. knowing that the Democrat will likely be smeared… means we voted for Mourdock.

  2. The fact that Lugar is considered by the far right to be “not conservative enough” is instructive of how far the Republican party has sidestepped into crazyland. Lugar has not moved. The party has. I moved to Indy in ’72 and have voted for him ever since because he is, and continues to be, representative of the sort of moderate Republican that used to exist back in the days of Dirkson and Rockefeller. He continues to be intelligent and characterized by integrity and willingness to compromise. These characteristics no longer can be associated with the Republican party and he has to be humiliated to be associated with the “leadership”, official and unoffical, of his GOP. Lugar as “too liberal” sounds like an idea for a skit on Saturday Night Live. I wish it were that funny but nothing about the current Republican Party, at any level, is a laughing matter. It is a tragedy in the making.

  3. It’s really tragic, because this country desperately needs two responsible, credible political parties. No one party or perspective has “the truth” forever, and a rational debate grounded in evidence improves policy. As you point out, the current GOP lacks the ability to participate in that sort of debate, and we are all poorer for that.

  4. Just wanted to say that I read your blog quite frequently and I’m always amazed at some of the stuff people post here. But keep up the good work, it’s always interesting.

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