Saturday, May 12, 2012

Indiana wants me... Lord, I cant go back there

I don't know much about Indiana, I've never been there. But chances are real good that pretty soon I'm going to start seeing appeals in my email, asking me (of all people) for money to fund a campaign for a Democratic senate candidate I've never heard of. You see Dick Lugar, six-term Republican Senator from the state of Indiana, has lost his primary election bid. The seat of his that had been something of a lock for him as an incumbent for 36 years is now in play. The "urgent" messages I am sure to receive will tell me "we" have a chance now to "pick up a seat" in the Senate.

That's how the sportscasters are seeing it.

There are several factors that all weigh in to all but guarantee that I won't be sending the DCCC any of my money. (First being that I ain't got none to send, but that doesn't feed my argument so much.) As I said, I could not even tell you the name of the Democratic candidate slated to run against Richard Mourdock (the fellow who beat Lugar). There are those that would tell me that I have the Democratic Party Platform as my guide to define his or her views, but I've said before and I will say again that what a party platform describes is an orientation, maybe an inclination. It does not define the candidate and his or her substance sight unseen. But perhaps the largest factor weighing against my sending the first or last dime to Indiana is the sad sinking feeling that I would be buying into the problem our politics face in this day and age, not contributing to a solution.

Reports are that one of the reasons Lugar lost his bid for his party's nomination is that upon the national stage he has been seen as entirely too moderate in his views, reasonable even. That is not to say he hasn't been a Republican with decidedly Conservative outlook, but there have been those occasions when he strayed from the entrenchments of convention, talked and even voted "across the aisle". This kind of behavior didn't sit well with the GOP's more extreme conservative base of activists and deep pockets. From all across the country money came in to support Richard Mourdock, and maybe to punish Richard Lugar.

And I have to agree with how Steve Kornacki writing for sees the resulting scene:

Lugar’s loss is a blow to the Senate not so much because he’ll be absent from it starting next January but because of the lesson that the Republicans who remain will take from it. The rules and traditions of the Senate, after all, have long encouraged senators to conduct themselves as Lugar has, remaining generally loyal to their party but also exercising individual prerogatives as they see fit. But the GOP’s conservative base has in the Obama-era risen up against this approach and launched a relentless campaign to turn the party’s Senate and House ranks into a uniform bloc of ideologically “pure” partisan warriors.

To be clear, this tendency is not something that limits itself to the GOP. I think it turns on the matter of money, on the nature of commercial grade politics (pun intended). Lugar may be lost to the Senate because moderation isn't quite as marketable as starkly partisan posture, but we've also seen the phenomena come to general elections. A Senator or Congressman who steps outside of the "uniform bloc" doesn't get the national level support, party operatives notice and suddenly the crosshairs are trained upon that "vulnerable seat."

Should we be surprised that our discourse dumbs down, when money is supposed as speech —and we're all asked to shout about what we don't even know?

I think Lugar himself points up the larger problem even as he talked about the particulars of his difference with the GOP rival who beat him out for his party's nomination:

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.

What Lugar describes is a politics not premised upon debate, but upon contest. What he describes is democracy diminished. And we shouldn't expect anything better if we all practice it ourselves.

So in response, when the DCCC sends me their fund raising messages they can expect this from me in reply, "Indiana wants me? —but Lord, I can't..."