The demise of one of the last "real" Republicans in the U.S. Senate last night was widely predicted. He was defeated in large part by the same coalition of billionaires and their ersatz shadow groups that have, through their race-tinged propaganda and manipulation of social issues, captured what miserably passes for the "imagination" of the Republican base, a base so consumed with white-hot hatred that they are long past even a dim awareness of what they're actually voting for. It's a base that has no interest in helping the conditions of American citizens in their current economic straits, and ultimately no real interest in governing. It's a blind, flailing juggernaut of pure hatred and ignorance, a lobotomized snake striking dumbly and without sense everything that it confronts.
Richard Lugar has always been one of the most conservative voices in the Senate. Like Mike Castle of Delaware and others who have been targeted by the "Tea Party," however, he is from that generation of politicians who considered their office as conferring a civic duty to work in the interests of the American people. That is no longer the touchstone of Republican politics, and Lugar's concession to Richard Mourdock last night shows that he clearly recognizes this. Intentional or not, what Lugar's "second" (he released two statements) concession statement reveals is the cold truth that the Republican party today is not interested in, does not exist to serve, and ultimately does not need, Americans.
The truth is that the headwinds in this race were abundantly apparent long before Richard Mourdock announced his candidacy. One does not highlight such headwinds publically when one is waging a campaign. But I knew that I would face an extremely strong anti-incumbent mood following a recession. I knew that my work with then-Senator Barack Obama would be used against me, even if our relationship were overhyped. I also knew from the races in 2010 that I was a likely target of Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and other Super Pacs dedicated to defeating at least one Republican as a purification exercise to enhance their influence over other Republican legislators.That last sentence is key. The fact that the "Tea Party" as celebrated by the media has driven the GOP further and further to the right is well-established. What Lugar is acknowledging here, and forcefully, is that the PACS and SuperPACS are the ones who are driving the GOP agenda, and that they are aiming to create a "purified" cadre of pawns solely for their own ends.
I knew that I had cast recent votes that would be unpopular with some Republicans and that would be targeted by outside groups.
These included my votes for the TARP program, for government support of the auto industry, for the START Treaty, and for the confirmations of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.
The SuperPacs didn't oust Lugar for any "philosophical" criticism of his basic ideology. Indeed, to target Lugar based on his support of TARP would be counterintuitive, as the end result and ultimate purpose of TARP, initiated by Bush and Cheney, was the continued survival of the banks and financial institutions which caused the economic crisis (they now provide considerable funding for the SuperPACS). Rather, the purpose was to drive the point home to any Republican running for office at any level that they could and would destroy them for any deviations from their orders. Lugar was a sacrifice to make that larger point.
Likewise, few disagree that the bailout of the auto industry was a success and is why General Motors and Chrysler and the millions of jobs they affect are still with us. The START treaty, while not without its detractors, is widely seen as a positive development for curtailing the proliferation of nuclear arms. These are not "controversial" positions. What they represent, however, are victories for the Obama administration. And the driving motivation behind the SuperPACs is the defeat of the Obama administration, because as long as it exists there is a possibility of further regulation, further taxation, the possibility of some diminishment to the profit and bottom lines of the people whose interests the SuperPACS represent. Again, these are not the interests of the American people, but the interests of a tiny minority of the nation's wealthiest citizens.
He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.Note that Lugar comes right right out and says it--his opponent has pledged his fealty to groups, not to Americans, not even to Republicans. "Groups."
And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve.
Here Lugar shows that while he understands the problem, he doesn't appreciate its magnitude. He chides Mourdock, suggesting that an inflexible approach will achieve nothing legislatively. What Lugar can't bring himself to acknowledge is that his Party as a whole has abandoned any pretense of governance, and exists solely to satisfy the needs of a tiny minority. Mourdock doesn't care whether he will achieve anything legislatively--he has pledged his fealty to the SuperPACS. They will reward him handsomely. And if he crosses them, they will destroy him in the same way they destroyed Lugar.
Lugar concludes his sober assessment with a half-hearted assertion (and some very weak examples) that the "inflexibility" is a characteristic of both parties, Democratic and Republican. But you get the sense he doesn't believe that, as he circles right back at the end to his own Republican Party to deliver his final verdict:
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.
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And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don't succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues.A tiny minority of wealthy Americans, pouring their millions into Crossroads USA, Freedomworks, and the Club for Growth, are gambling that Lugar is wrong.
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