Who, Exactly, Is Susan Brooks?

Yes, Indiana is a reliably red state. But there are measurable differences among our urban, suburban and rural Republicans.

Indiana’s Fifth Congressional District lies largely in Hamilton County. If survey research is to be believed, many Hamilton County Republicans tend to be “old-fashioned” members of the Grand Old Party, in the sense that they have more in common with the party of Hudnut and Lugar than that of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.

Presumably conscious of the character of this portion of her constituency, GOP Representative Susan Brooks has generally presented herself publicly as “moderately moderate”–an unthreatening throwback to the good old days when Republicans who described themselves as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” were still welcome in the party.

Those of us who knew her before she ran for Congress certainly believed her to be a moderate, and the positions she chooses to publicize do little to disabuse voters of that impression; they tend to address issues having broad bipartisan appeal, like her recent statements on opoid addiction. Her voting record, however, is very different.

Indeed, her voting history was virtually indistinguishable from that of Michelle Bachmann, before the latter left Congress.

Most recently, Brooks participated in a GOP turnaround (aka “dirty trick”) in order to protect federal contractors who discriminate against LGBT employees:

The hugely symbolic fight on the House floor that most Americans probably missed is worth revisiting. The provision at issue seeks to repeal nondiscrimination protections that President Obama extended to LGBT employees of federal contractors in 2014. And although the final vote tally originally showed a majority of lawmakers—including 35 Republicans—voting against the measure, the Republican leadership did some quick arm-twisting among its members, resulting in a seven-vote turn around that kept the anti-LGBT portion intact.

Chaos momentarily erupted on the floor with Democrats chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer taking to the floor to demand answers for how the vote changed after the clock had run out.

It was the capper to a week in which GOP lawmakers across the country made clear that they will indeed force LGBT issues into the headlines this election cycle, even though it originally appeared that gay and transgender issues would mostly be on the back burner.

Brooks was one of the seven who “turned around” their votes, and went on record as approving of discrimination against LGBT workers.

I would never have anticipated that the reasonable Susan Brooks I thought I knew would become a steadfast opponent of civil rights for gays and lesbians, or that she would sponsor a measure prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, or vote against the Lilly Ledbetter Act requiring equal pay for women, or that she would vote repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or to prevent the EPA from regulating toxic emissions, or join in the discredited and dishonest Benghazi witch hunt, or vote to defund Planned Parenthood, or …well, the list goes on.

(UPDATE/CORRECTION: I received an email from Rep. Brooks office, saying that–despite the newspaper report I read that triggered this post, she was not one of the seven “switchers” identified in the article I relied upon. I asked a lawyer friend to check that assertion, since I’m out of town in full-day meetings, and this was his response: “Here’s what I’ve found; it is true that Susan was not among the 7 who switched their votes at the last minute from “yes” to “no” on Thursday — but that’s because she voted NO at the outset. Here’s roll call on it: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2016/roll226. This is apparently a “switch” in position–hence the language in the article you saw– but it relates to the fact that she apparently supported some similar non-discrimination measure last year, but this year (last Thursday) she voted against the similar measure. I’m not entirely sure what the difference was in the two measures, but apparently the one last week would have withheld funding to discriminating organizations. So did she switch from yes to no LAST WEEK? Nope. She voted “NO” at the outset, having “switched” her position from last year. This probably accounts for the confusing newspaper report you read.” I was also mistaken about the Lilly Ledbetter vote–although all Republican House members did vote against it, that vote occurred prior to Brooks’ election. Although I regret my errors–I really try to be accurate in this blog–none of this rebuts my central point about the Congresswoman’s overall voting record.)

I don’t know who the “real” Susan Brooks is. Perhaps–as many Hamilton County voters obviously believe–she doesn’t really believe in the regressive measures she consistently supports. Perhaps she’s just constructing a voting record intended to avoid a potential primary challenge, or to ingratiate herself with Congressional colleagues who can advance her career, or to position herself for a Senate race in which appealing to more rural, deep-red GOP voters will be important.

Or perhaps she really is a somewhat less crazed, blond version of Michelle Bachmann.

In other words, she is either utterly devoid of integrity, or a genuinely right-wing ideologue.

Either way, she’s been a massive disappointment to those of us who once thought much better of her.


  1. Sheila, I don’t know Susan Brooks *except* by her record, which is appalling, but I DO know her Democratic opponent, Angela Demaree, and she is well worth knowing. She’s a veterinarian out of Purdue, and a Captain in the US Army Reserves, deployed in 2012 in Operation Enduring Freedom. She currently serves on Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Alumni Board and the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) State Advocacy Committee.
    I’ve known Angela for almost a year, and we’ve spent hours discussing her views on the issues, her candidacy, and this is a thoughtful person who wants to help all Hoosiers. What finally prompted her to run was a series of repeated failed efforts to talk to Susan Brooks about veterans issues, and Susan simply refused to speak to her. THAT is not a ‘representative’.

  2. Who, Exactly, Is Susan Brooks?

    The transgendered Sen. Joe McCarthy post surgery. Replacing a Communist behind every bush with LGBTs hiding among the employed in Indiana. No surprise this has taken place here where our state motto “Honest To Goodness, Indiana” has taken on new meaning.

  3. Jane Cook—Thank you for news of Ms. Brooks’s opponent. The lines of the Congressional District seem to change on my street weekly. Dr. Demaree needs more PR. Whoops—that probably will not happen in the Indianapolis media market.

  4. She showed her colors early, voting to deny funding for hurricane Sandy relief.

  5. “In other words, she is either utterly devoid of integrity, or a genuinely right-wing ideologue.”

    I tend to believe she is utterly devoid of integrity…

  6. Nancy—this reminds me of the SNL skit in the first season. “New Shimmer! It’s a dessert topping!” “No—it’s a floor polish!” “You’re both right! Shimmer is a dessert topping and a floor polish!” She utterly lacks integrity and she’s a right-wing ideologue.

  7. Always judge your Congressperson by his/her actions, rather than by rhetoric.

  8. As President Washington lamented , the problem with political parties is that they create -FACTIONS- LGBT is a prime example. It IS a hate group just like the ADL , and the Ku – Klux – Klan. All persons with ANY amount of ethics would , and SHOULD ignore Little pansy self interest groups like these hate mongers.
    As for those pansies who would take issue with this statement . keep your hate speech to yourselves.

  9. Sheila–Thank you for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. My vote is for uttterly devoid of integrity–whatever it takes to get elected. One quibble though. Lugar consistently voted with the right wingers during his last several years in office, too. It’s only the party of Hudnut that was reasonable.

  10. mark,

    As for those pansies who would take issue with this statement . keep your hate speech to yourselves.

    As for pansies, they’re one of my favorite flowers. But, I was wondering do you include the Tea Party as a hate group.? I do. They are my “prime example.”

    Don’t keep your politics to “yourself,” how about a response?

  11. It was Hamilton County, after all, that inflicted Dan Burton on the country–the self-righteous, pearl-clutching blue dress warrior who was so central to the Clinton impeachment effort,

  12. What I don’t understand is why anyone thought she wasn’t a bible thumper all along. What’s changed? Abosutely nothing! The only thing that’s changed is whats popular to vote for and Hamilton County, IN is leading from behind in that regard.

  13. I couldn’t agree more. The Susan Brooks I thought I knew certainly isn’t the one voting in Congress today. I, too, am totally disappointed in her.

  14. I have been perplexed about his for quite a while now. Thanks for giving her record the publicity it deserves. (On days like this I sometimes miss Gopper … but then again, we do have mark.)

  15. Thanks for your posts. No chance Brooks will get my one vote in November due to the straight ticket I will cast for my own peace of mind.

  16. As I can’t imagine what can be said of Susan Brooks other than what Sheila has by tracking down and reporting her voting record, let me pick another phrase from Sheila’s lead off.

    “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”

    IMO never trust anyone who claims to be this. It’s a disguise. Why?

    I think that evidence shows that “fiscal conservatives” are those people who believe that the future is not worth investing in and “social liberals” are complete opposites.

    So the phrase is like claiming to be a tall short person or a compassionate conservative.

  17. Pete,

    “So the phrase is like claiming to be a tall short person or a compassionate conservative.”

    Remember George Bush the “compassionate conservative.” I’m sure you do. What a bunch of “bullshit.”

  18. My sister and I wrote to Susan Brooks many times about LGBT issues. She has always been a disappointment. You hit the nail on the head Sheila. Thank you for exposing her voting record. Unfortunately this is preaching to the choir. I think a lot of politically unaware people that pull straight GOP ticket have no idea what they are really voting for.

  19. Greetings LeAnn. Mark seems to be an outsider in much of this choir group. He has to be old because young bigots do not use the pansy word any more. 🙂 Have a great day Irvin

  20. Jane Cook’s comments about Angela Demaree are very much on target. Angela Demaree as a candidate and as an individual is a very impressive person.

    Regarding your column about Susan Brooks, thank you. The media coverage of Rep. Brooks is generally misleading. Your column matches what people find who follow her actual votes and acts in Washington.

    What Rep. Brooks is doing as a member of Congress is not new. We all know that far too many lawmakers today and in the past have done the same. However, history doesn’t make her voting behavior and actions on the Hill acceptable.

    What is disheartening is how difficult it is to reach our fellow citizens with the message regarding what Susan Brooks is actually doing … and that they could choose a better person to represent their interests in the U.S. House of Representatives.

  21. Susan Brooks is smart and articulate enough AND from the right kind of district to lead the GOP to a more sensible position if she chose to do so. There are any number of other suburban Members of Congress in her same situation. She and they have chosen to follow rather than lead and leverage their votes to represent a much broader range of her constituents. Too bad. Her posture to follow Washington insiders is such a waste of talent while so many wait for the kind of representation of which she’s capable.

  22. Nancy you seem to have insider information that I don’t have. I’m not challenging you because I just don’t know. But your post sort of stands out. You claim that she’s smart but other reports here seem to imply the opposite.

    What do you see in her that’s “smart”? Is it because she’s “articulate”?

  23. I see a need to clarify my last post. I was just wondering what, if any, the connection might be between being conventionally “smart” and having a liberal predisposition to politics.

    Thinking out loud it strikes me that “liberal” compared to “conservative” implies a more empathetic and optimistic (less cynical) view of political agenda.

    Is that true? Is that what smart is?

    I suppose that it depends on how often or seldom that predisposition leads to the realization of actual progress (increase in the greater good).

    If progress can’t be realized perhaps it’s “smarter” to be cynical and pessimistic. But then progress hasn’t a chance.

    Perhaps the term “smart” isn’t very useful.

  24. Thanks to redistricting, she is now “my” representative (Andre Carson used to be). I want to know how to get off her mailing list; I really don’t care for her so-called accomplishments. Ms. Demaree will certainly have my vote, although I don’t expect her to win. Thanks, gerrymandering!

  25. Re: Angela Demaree, DVM

    Thanks to those posters who mentioned Dr Demaree as the Democrat choice for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District.

    After a couple of minutes of Online research, I’d say Dr Demaree offers a refreshing change from the stereotypical Congress person, male or female, who seems most comfortable in the business attire of an attorney. By virtue of her career as a ‘large animal’ vet (aka horses and other livestock), Demaree has instant appeal to most rural voters and to the well-to-do suburban voters who are members of the horsey crowd and whose children are involved in equine sports. Plus, Demaree has instant voter appeal from those who’ve served in the military, especially those veterans who served in the Middle East.

    Seriously, what’s not to like about a female Congresswoman who’s comfortable walking through a feedlot to chat with a farmer on his John Deere tractor?

  26. I don’t know Susan Brooks but her voting record as quoted by Sheila discredits the propaganda she sends out to voters in her district. She may not be a member of the tea party caucus but she is voting like one, so what’s the difference whether she is a member or not? How one votes is the ultimate arbiter and sine qua non of how we label politicians, so despite her propaganda, she is just another right winger unworthy of thoughtful voters’ approval. These people with whom she votes are the same people who contribute to our underperforming economy, deepening wage inequality, Let’s All Hate Obama and social legislation (that has no place in the halls of Congress in the first place). If I lived in Indiana’s Fifth District, I would vote for her opponent.

  27. Well at least from WIKI – She (Brooks) was appointed by Mayor Steve Goldsmith in 1998 to be deputy mayor. New Jersey Governor and former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie endorsed and fund raised for Brooks.

    What is that saying the nut does not fall far from the tree???

  28. It sounds like Susan Brooks major crime is that she’s very aware of “which side of the bread is buttered.” Are there really any exceptions left in the Republican Party?

  29. In my opinion, Susan Brooks has sold her soul to the devil – the Republicans, that is.

  30. Please note: the person who posted under the name “mark” is not me, “mark small.” Since my first short story was published (November, 1980), usually I have published under the pen name (my own, but all lower-case) “mark small.” I wanted to correct anyone who might have mistaken me for the person who posts under “mark.” I might post this a couple more times when “mark” responds on this blog. I find his views and his manner of expression of those views—such as I have read the few times he has chimed into a conversation—repugnant.

  31. For anyone interested in the facts, Rep. Brooks was NOT one of the 7 members who switched votes. Best if Sheila gets her facts straight before launching into a character assassination of someone to an audience that should expect better of an academic leader.

  32. It’seems usually an uphill climb for non-incumbents…usually related to $$ shoveled into current office holders by special interests. It really becomes less about the personal integrity and values of Ms. Brooks that she was originally elected for…now about the positions she has been compromised to support from her $$ benefactors. Truly a conundrum that the only elected representatives who can support their own values are those rich enough to fund their own election process. The “K-Street syndrome” and “billionaire” interests are a cancer that has superceded the value of individual voters in every level governance

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