Mitch Daniels And Tea Leaves

We all view the news of the day through a personal lens. I know that I do. So it may be that my “reading” of a recent item in the Indianapolis Business Journal simply reflects my conviction that the Republican Party is far along in the process of disintegration.

The article reported on former Governor Mitch Daniels’ acceptance of a new position:

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is set to join the Carmel-based Liberty Fund this week in the new position of distinguished scholar and senior adviser, the educational foundation announced Tuesday.

The position was created specifically for Daniels, who has spent the past decade as president of Purdue University. The Liberty Fund said Daniels’ work will focus on the creation of educational programming and partnerships that will strengthen the not-for-profit’s existing education programs.

The Liberty Fund is one of the richest foundations in the state, with about $341 million in assets as of April 2021. The pro-free-enterprise foundation, which has about 45 employees, was founded in 1960 by businessman and philanthropist Pierre Goodrich, the son of James Goodrich, Indiana’s 29th governor (1917-21).

The foundation raised its local profile by opening a $22 million headquarters at 111th Street and U.S. 31 in Carmel in 2016.

“I have watched for decades as the Liberty Fund, with impeccable scholarship and fidelity to principle, has labored to keep lit the lamp of freedom, and spread understanding of its historical and intellectual underpinnings,” Daniels, 73, said in written remarks. “Now, with individual liberty under relentless threats foreign and domestic, I’m grateful for the funds’ invitation that I try to assist it in its noble and essential mission.”

Wealthy Republicans and conservative institutions have a long history of providing comfortable “stopping points” for politicians who are between electoral gigs, and perhaps this is simply another illustration of the cozy relationship of political folks with their moneyed patrons.

But through my “lens” I see it differently.

I’m superficially familiar with the Liberty Fund. I even attended one of their conferences. And while I have substantial differences with the extreme libertarian political philosophy that led Pierre Goodrich to establish the organization, it is a philosophy that for many years formed a significant part of the GOP’s policy agenda.

The books published by the Fund are by thinkers like Adam Smith, Ludwig  Von Mises, and David Hume, along with reprints of the Federalist Papers and other documents explicating the Constitution. The conference I attended focused on a scholarly discussion of totalitarianism and the writings of Hannah Arendt.

I seriously doubt that Kevin McCarthy or the ragtag members of the House misnamed “Freedom Caucus” have ever read any of those books, or have ever heard of Hannah Arendt. The vast majority of today’s Republican officeholders are buffoons and/or racists, intent only upon appealing to their White Nationalist MAGA base and retaining power.

And that brings me to the few remaining Republicans like Mitch Daniels. When Mitch was Governor, I disagreed with several of his policy priorities, but I endorsed and admired his refusal to engage in culture war politics.

I have been predicting the implosion of the Republican Party for several years. That’s my “lens.” The conservative businesspeople we used to call “Country Club” Republicans, who tend to be educated, are increasingly fleeing the out-and-proud racism, misogyny and conspiracy theories embraced by the MAGA Republicans and Trumpers.

Before I read about Daniels new position at the Liberty Fund, I’d been planning to post about the GOP’s abandonment of anything resembling a principled, intellectually-defensible conservatism. (That today’s GOP has no agenda–conservative or otherwise– was made abundantly clear by the party’s failure to produce a platform during the last election cycle.)

What does that have to do with Daniels new “gig”?

When there were rumors that Daniels might run for Senate, and oppose MAGA world’s Jim Banks in the primary, the far right Club for Growth came out with guns blazing, accusing him of being an “old guard” Republican–i.e., too liberal. (Still sane?)

That  knee-jerk reaction was just more evidence–as if we needed it– that today’s GOP is a pathetic assemblage of reaction and racism, leaving the Democrats as the party-by-default of everyone else. That’s terrible for the country, because we lose the benefit of principled conservative analyses of proposed legislation, and because the Democratic Party has to cope with the internal disputes that are inevitable when a party becomes home to pretty much every voter–from center-right to “out there” left– who rejects the current GOP.

Bottom line: My “lens” tells me that Daniels and the Liberty Fund and conservatives like Paul Ryan who once had a home in the GOP are mounting a last-gasp effort to retake the party.

My lens also tells me it’s too late.


  1. I disagree with your “lens” on this one — at least the part about mounting any effort to “retake” the Party. I see this as a face-saving place for Daniel’s to retire without seeming to “retire.” It is a position granted to him to make it seem like he isn’t useless, washed up, and washed out of his old Republican Party, when that is precisely what has happened.

    There will be no effort to retake the Party, at least not by Daniels — he is smart and knows full well that when he cannot beat a gutless know-nothing bigot like Jim Banks in a Senate primary, the party holds no position or hope for the likes of country-club Republicans like him.

    Daniels just moved into the equivalent of a Republican nursing home, a brief stop before Republican Hospice Care.

  2. Good old Mitch – The guy that decided American workers & American companies could not build our interstates or run our toll roads. What a guy

    From 2006: Earlier this month, in a triumph for Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s House narrowly approved his proposal to lease the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road, which spans the northern part of the state, for $3.85 billion to a joint venture of Cintra, a Spanish company, and Australia’s Macquarie Bank. The two companies have been active in the U.S. road business.
    From 2014: (This was a LONG TERM MESS for Indiana – YEARS of problems) INDIANAPOLIS
    The Spain-based company Isolux Infrastructure Netherlands B.V. will be building its first American interstate in southern Indiana.

    Members of the Indiana Finance Authority on Wednesday entered into an agreement with a team called I-69 Development Partners, led by the Isolux company, to design, build, finance, operate and maintain Section 5 of I-69, the 21-mile stretch from Bloomington to Martinsville.

    The team scored highest of four that had submitted proposals for the highway to the Indiana Department of Transportation, which estimated the highway would cost $347 million. Isolux’s bid was $325 million.

    The state will repay the money in 35 annual installments of $21.8 milllion. That brings the total cost of the interstate to $763 million, more than twice the amount of the contract awarded Wednesday.

  3. Sheila writes, “My lens also tells me it’s too late.”

    I don’t think so. Daniels spent a decade perfecting his censorship schtick or limiting academic freedom at Purdue. Daniels is a Koch puppet. So is Pence.

    All Koch’s dark network has to do is pull money from the dreadful baboons and shift to Pence and his Evangelical voters. If you’ve noticed, Pence has distanced himself from Trump.

    Trump will see more legal woes, so what will DeSantis do?

    The monied interests got spared from the 1/6 debacle…why?

    The politicians are just performative creatures – pawns for the oligarchy. The Biden Administration also laid back in think tanks, waiting for his election win. Or should I say, the DNC…watch the GOP public relations crew spinning the upcoming election.

    Don’t forget, your buddy Mitch hammered in the fate of Hoosier workers with RTW once he hired himself at Purdue. 😉

    Michigan’s Democratic Governor trashed RTW in our biggest organized labor union state. I’ve been hearing Biden is not happy with the Kamala. She can’t stay away from the free cocktails on private jets.

  4. As a life long West Texas Democrat, I hold in trust a lot of respect and admiration for Mitch Daniel as I do for Richard Lugar. I can disagree on important and timely public policy but I share their principles and values as men and as responsible citizens in our community. I can hope for the day in the future for the sake of our grandchildren we have principled, well read men and women on both sides of the aisle, engaged in informed debate on issues that matter most to our country and not just for the sake of a one day and done headline. Whatever end game that is good for Mitch Daniel is earned and I wish him well.

  5. The sooner people like Daniels get off the stage and quit pretending they care about everyone’s future the better. They do not, only their own.

    As enablers, they obscure and give cover to Fascist Republican Radicals across the country, not just here in Indiana. “See, Maude, they’re not all so bad.”

  6. What is and what has been Daniels’ connection to The Liberty Fund and its members to again appear to be rewarded with a high level, and probably higher paycheck than as President of Purdue University. He had appointed enough members to Purdue’s Board to be rewarded with the presidency. What is the connection between The Liberty Fund and Purdue University? Is The Liberty Fund connected in any way to the currently scrambled public education vs. voucher students, what are their “existing programs”?

    I like David’s comment, “I see this as a face-saving place for Daniel’s to retire without seeming to “retire.” Old Republicans never die; and today they don’t seem to fade away. I’m waiting to see how much power in the Senate will be in McConnell’s hands when he returns after 2 falls and a lengthy stay in rehab due to a head injury. Sheila’s “Bottom Line” that the “GOP are mounting a last-gasp effort to retake the party” viewed through my lens makes me question, does that GOP factor remaining in the current administration have any power remaining to them to try?

  7. Mitch Daniels has been the proverbial angry white guy. He’s been exacting revenge upon the populace since always having been denied access to carnival rides because of his lack of height.

    Let’s be honest. His bid as a presidential candidate was never an earnest effort.

    His wife would never live in a residence previously occupied by black people.

  8. Anyone remember when Mitch Daniel’s wanted to ban the books of Howard Zinn?

    Some folks have short memories

  9. Sheila, your memory of the “former” Republican Party is much different than mine. I grew up in a Republican Family. I was taught that only factory workers were Democrats, which was only one heart beat away from Communism. Mitch Daniels, in his dealings with the BLM students at Purdue, showed me that Mitch may be an Eisenhower Republican, but he’s still stuck in the 1950s when it comes to dealing with race. I’ve always known he was a minsogynst. I miss my Indiana friends, but I don’t miss the Republican-dominated racist and misogynistic culture.

  10. Mitch has worked for years to kill the academic record of Purdue in order to create a new larger version of Ivy Tech. I stopped giving to my Alma Mater when he was put in charge. If they bring in another failed Republican budget guru, they won’t see another dime from me.

  11. Mr. Daniels has much on his record to call into ethical question, not the least his “appointment”, duly purchased by replacing trustees with handpicked sycophants, to the Presidency of Purdue, his stacking of the state Supreme Court with those same types.
    Talk to the majority of the Purdue faculty, especially in the arts departments, about his management style and disdain for anything promoting critical thinking and a full embrace of the rejection of education as anything other than a job training program.
    He couldn’t compete with the stone-aged mentality of Banks, et al., in a run for the Senate or even a return to the Governor’s mansion (or temporary residence in his case).
    He is retiring to a cushy job with millions in income, most of which will go untaxed, while the rest of us pay through the nose and juggle budget demands every day.

  12. Having no experience of Daniels whatsoever, let me just comment on totalitarianism as
    discussed by Hannah Arendt: TFG, and his followers and ilk, like DeSantis, are hell-bent on
    establishing a totalitarian state, here. TFG is, as is his bent, is working to avoid the law.

  13. Mitch should retire to the totalitarian state of DeFascist, one I have just recently abandoned, and he may spend most of his time there in any event since the Carmel gig is name game ceremonial. He may be an Old Guard Republican but his right wing policies over the years have set the stage for Trumpers, secessionists, and the likes of Boeberts ands MTGs who think it’s just fine to overthrow our government, subvert our constitution, and deny the results of super clean elections, and such Benedict Arnolds (see Trump) even have the colossal gall to run for president, as though such sesessionist conduct is routine.

    Such conduct is not routine; for my money it is criminal, and though Mitch was not a direct participant in the unforgivable 1/6 attempt to destroy America, he helped set the stage knowingly or unknowingly and should be held to account for such civic sin. He should go to Florida where he will be told what he can say and what his great grandchildren can say, read and see by the ruling fascist dictator (assuming libraries there are still open and librarians are out of jail), a governor who apparently wishes to spread the fascist gospel of Florida to the other forty nine, in which event I for one will become an instant ex-pat since I will not live under an ism I once engaged in a war to eradicate.

  14. Fck “My B!tch Mitch” Daniels and his right wing Republican corporate whore friends, that despicable scumbag appointed himself to “lead” one of only two state university systems which he then quickly set out to sell to the Chinese totalitarian spies, er, ‘students’…now all of the best technology developed at Purdue goes straight to the Chinese government, they completed the takeover of Purdue by appointing a Chinese spy to “lead” Purdue after Mitch the B!tch stepped down…Fck every one of these authoritarian corporate whores!!!

  15. I have my issues with Mitch Daniels, but at least he understood that the problem with higher education is that the cost of that education has for decades gone up far above the inflation rate…and tried to stop that trend. Those who advocate for “free” college or for forgiving student loans offer nothing to stop the real problem of soaring educational costs and in fact they would make things worse.

  16. “Those who advocate for “free” college or for forgiving student loans offer nothing to stop the real problem of soaring educational costs and in fact they would make things worse.”

    I can’t believe I am starting this historical political week by agreeing with Republicans Paul K. Ogden and Mitch Daniels…but I am. One of my former Administrators in Indianapolis Republican City Government (and a close friend of Sheila) had a banner on the wall behind his desk; TINFL…There Is No Free Lunch! This is a basic truth throughout our entire lives and in all areas of life. Even those supporting Trump through his many publicly known criminal actions will eventually be handed their bill with payment demanded. Not today or tomorrow, maybe not in this year but, I will be 86 years old this month and hope I live to see this happen; it will give me hope that my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can stop paying their for their gourmet lunches.

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