Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What Senator Lugar's loss means for our national politics

We've seen it quite often lately...conservative Republicans being defeated in primaries waged against them by the extremists in their party. And it happened again last night to Senator Lugar who lost to Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock by 20 points.

Some Democrats are cheering because it puts the Indiana Senate seat in play...that's a good thing.

But the message Republican voters are sending their elected officials is chilling. Steve Benen does a good job of capturing what's at play.
Lugar is a giant -- a veritable legend -- of Indiana politics, having been a popular mayor of Indianapolis and a successful senator who never faced a serious challenge before this year. On Capitol Hill, Lugar developed a reputation as a consistent conservative, generally on the right on nearly every issue (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 77%), but who nevertheless conducted himself with class and dignity -- a senator who enjoyed universal respect, especially on international affairs, where his stature is largely unrivaled.
And his opponent.
Mourdock is a favorite of right-wing groups like Club for Growth, and has staked out extreme positions, including his recent boast that bipartisanship is "wrong" and that he wouldn't intend to work with Democrats on any issue.
Here's the conclusion for Republican legislators.
...every incumbent on Capitol Hill has received the right-wing threat anew: toe a far-right line and refuse to compromise or prepare to be replaced. Full stop. The radicalized party won't quit until it's purged every hint of independence from its ranks.
This didn't surprise most of us when the tea party was at the height of its popularity. But with most polls showing that waning, what I'd suggest is that the so-called "movement" always was and is now solidified, as the base of the Republican Party. Benen suggests, and I agree, that this latest move shows they are a party "beyond redemption."

But we're going to have to live with them for awhile yet. And the one concrete thing this says to me is that it will not matter to the obstructionists what the "majority" of the American people think about any issue. What will matter to them is what their extremist base thinks. Because if they don't toe the line and refuse to compromise with Democrats, they'll be out on their unceremonious ass just like Lugar and all the others.

So the next time you see polls that say that a majority of the American people agree with Democrats on an issue - especially when its followed by an argument that if only President Obama would use the bully pulpit and fight for it - remember Lugar. No matter what we or the President do to rally support for a cause, Republican legislators will not be paying attention to any of it. They'll be watching for a potential challenge from the right. And if that looks like it will come, they'll have 3 choices:

1. Toe the line on obstruction.
2. Get out of politics like Senator Snowe decided to do.
3. Go down in defeat like Senator Lugar.

Governing will be nearly impossible until either the Republican contingent is so small as to not matter, or their base is challenged to wake up to the folly of their ways. Having chosen the quintessential chameleon as their standard bearer this time around, I don't see the later happening anytime soon. That's the best reason I can think of to reinforce the old saying about how "elections matter." Ensuring that as many Democrats are elected as possible is the one tool we have for combating this nonsense.


  1. It seems to me the GOP is indeed beyond redemption, because there's nothing going on institutionally that makes it seem like they are willing to govern. That said, the verdict is still out, because the last election we had was 2010, which went well for them (certainly in the House) with this line. Rather, they believe it went well for them and it did in the short-term.

    How 2012 goes and how the GOP responds will really be the test. Anyone who is neither an incumbent or a total obstructionist is sitting 2012 out and if they get back in after then the GOP may have a prayer in the long haul to be something other the party of the very rich and ignorant white people.

  2. The GOP is no longer the GOP. They have become Birchers, 'Baggers, and Blowhards. Cantor's attempted screwing of Joplin after the massive tornado is evidence that there is not a longterm brain in the Party. This party will split, and soon.

    The loons will probably keep the name Republican, but the party will morph into another name.