The Beltway media are predictably bemoaning the primary defeat of Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana to insurgent Richard Mourdock, a severe conservative backed by the Tea Party and the Club for Growth. Mourdock, Indiana’s state treasurer, walloped Lugar by 20 percentage points.
Lugar was one of the Grand Old Men of the Senate, having served since 1976. He’s the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has focused on an important issue, reducing the world’s nuclear arsenal.
He’s also an old school Republican who actually works with Democrats, a rare bird indeed in the polarized halls of Congress, which was the meme the mainstream media predictably took up.
Lugar has long played the role of Republican wise man, a sober internationalist who could reach across the aisle to solve difficult problems.
According to The Washington Post, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), called Lugar’s defeat “a tragedy for the Senate” while Lugar himself said of Mourdock: “His embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance.”
Now we at The Independent Agenda are all for bipartisanship and compromise. One of the main problems we face as a country is that both parties appeal to their bases rather than attempt to serve the public.
With the rise of the Tea Party, Republicans have moved much further to the extreme right than Democrats have to the far left. So-called moderates like Lugar will necessarily become collateral damage.
But Lugar had become hopelessly out of touch, hadn’t lived in his state in years, and certainly wasn’t in sync with what his party has become.
He’s also 80 years old and has been serving for six terms. Isn’t that enough? Why do he and others , like 78-year-old Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), feel compelled to run again and again and again? Because they’re patriots? No, because they feel entitled to their seats and all the perks and deference that comes with it.
Senators like Lugar are the best advertisements for a two-term limit on senatorial service and a mandatory retirement age of 72 for all congressmen. There are plenty of places they can continue to serve the people besides the US Senate.
As for Mourdock, the Tea Party, and groups like the Club for Growth, they have the bit between their teeth and they’re hell bent on riding this pony as far as it goes—even if it takes them and us over a cliff.