Lugar and Mourdock

~by Sam Wilkinson

This was the quote that got me:

“If the GOP is going to win elections, it’s going to win them fair and square with real Republicans, not fake ones.”

That’s from (the apparently controversial) Tom Van Dyke. referring to Senator Richard Lugar’s loss in Indiana’s Republican primary. Lugar was beaten soundly by Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party favorite who is far more conservative than Lugar. This thrills Van Dyke, as Mourdock is the “real Republican” in the quote above. Lugar, we’re lead to believe, was fake.

Fake, in this case, is defined as moderate, which Lugar was by the slippery standards the Republican Party currently has for such things. Because Republican politics have lurched so sharply right in the past few years, what were once standard positions within the party became moderate; what were once conservative positions in the party became standard.

This isn’t to quibble with that, but rather, to question the idea that Lugar’s record renders him and his entire career as fake. If we are going to accept that reasoning, we need to deal with the fact that much of the Republican Party for its recent history has been filled to the point of overflow with these fakes. Spending increased under each of the party’s last three presidents:

1. Here is a brief discussion of Ronald Reagan’s relationships with deficits.
2. Here is a brief discussion (barely) of George H. W. Bush’s relationships with deficits.
3. Here is a brief discussion of George W. Bush’s relationships with deficits.

By the standard that seems to be at play here, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush count as fake Republicans. That seems odd. Equally odd is the fakeness of most elected Republicans, the ones who vote to cut taxes without offsetting spending cuts, the ones who voted for Medicare Part-D, the ones who voted for unfunded wars, the ones who voted for budget after budget that created deficits. By Van Dyke’s apparent standard, almost the entire collective of elected Republicans were in fact fakes. How is it possible that Republican voters across the nation were routinely duped into believing that the Republican candidates that they were voting for were in fact impostors there only to deceive them?

In other threads here, I have tried to argue that actions tell us more than words. It is a holdover from my days as a social worker I suppose; a kid who tells you he wants to change is not as trustworthy as the kid who shows you that he wants to change. I am biased in this way.

This bias leads to a confidence that the actions of elected politicians tell us more about their beliefs than their rhetoric ever could. To put that another way, we should assume that any politician who claims to believe in one thing but routinely supports legislation that produces its polar opposite is almost certainly lying to us. What other conclusion can we reasonably draw?

And yet Van Dyke presents us with an alleged dichotomy that exists between “real” and “fake” Republicans, as if decades of financial malfeasance can simply be written off as the behavior of fugazis who have somehow infiltrated the party to the point of being the overwhelming majority of its elected politicians. The point here is not to battle with Van Dyke about his evisceration of Lugar, a politician who said one thing about deficits and routinely did quite another. The point is to wonder why we would assume that Lugar was the fake of the two. If Mourdock is serious about the things he claims to believe – and let’s be honest: he will almost certainly abandon these deeply held principles should he manage to get to Washington and serve under a Republican president – then he is outlier to the Republican Party’s long history of paying lip-service to debt-reduction while exploding it at every imaginable opportunity. It is Mourdock who currently stands as the fake; Lugar, by contrast, was everything that the party has stood for in practice.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

22 thoughts on “Lugar and Mourdock

  1. Great post! As the center has shifted further and further right and the Republican party has become Southernized, folks who were once recognized as “real” Republicans have now become outliers. The party has become both radicalized and stupidified. Even patron saint Reagan would be a “fake” Republican by today’s standards.

    For the record, I don’t think the main reason Lugar went down to defeat was because he was insufficiently Republican. He lost the election when it became clear he hadn’t actually had a home in his home state for a couple of decades. That little fact combined with his age and long tenure in the Senate made it easy to paint him as being out of touch with his constituents.

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • I agree with you and Michelle that an important part of Lugar’s loss was the desire for new blood and I’ve got no problem with that. But, if you end up nominating a Tea Party guy, the change you get is in the direction of radicalized partisanship and away from moderation. The motivation for the change isn’t as important as the result of the change.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Of course, it also gives the Blue Dog Democrat a much better chance of winning, particularly if the tea-party dude stakes out a fairly radical rightwing position. The Dem would likely have had no chance to defeat Lugar.

            Quote  Link

          Report

  2. This is one of those things that drives me crazy about American political discourse. We really need to honor distinctions between “conservative” and “Republican” (and “liberal” and “Democrat”). Mashing them all together and talking about who is “real” or “fake” makes it hard to even speak coherently to each other.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • Paid any attention to the radio and TV ads in your local primaries? The GOP candidates are all trying to out-“conservative” each other. There is no such thing as a “moderate” talk radio host.

      For the past 4 years the GOP has been on a crusade to burn the heretics, defined as anyone who isn’t a jackbooted religious extremist with social policies resembling those of Marie Antoinette or Ebenezer Scrooge, from their ranks. Therefore I think it’s fair to say that yes, the GOP = “conservative” although I would also approve the label “reactionary anarchists.”

        Quote  Link

      Report

  3. Michelle’s points are well taken.

    But also in the stew were Murdock’s charges that Lugar was insufficiently conservative. And a big spender. True or not, and representative of the views of the Indiana electorate or not, the primary is also an indicator of what Republicans want out of their own party and out of Washington.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • You’ve got that right. I was in Indiana for a week in mid-April to visit family, so I saw a lot of the late inning TV ad campaigns for the primary. Mourdock slammed Lugar over his vote for TARP.

      But I’d argue that it is inappropriate to concede the Tea Party position that being anti-bailout is the same as being anti-big spending. As the vote in the House today to thwart sequestration cuts to the defense budget demonstrates, for Republicans its not about how much is spent but what it is spent on.

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • Burt, that highlights my view. What’s good about Lugar the GOP gets no credit for, what’s bad [the spending in particular] is grist for the mill.

      And in the meta-, dedicated GOP haters hated the old Republicans, and they hate the new ones, so what’s the difference?

      In the very least, Lugar became a creature of Washington [his residence in Indiana was a hotel room]. People are sick of creatures of Washington, almost entirely for good reason.

        Quote  Link

      Report

        • The attacks on the GOP for overspending in the Dubya era were fair. Lugar was one of those bums who needed tossing.

          The central point here—since you called me out in the OP—is that attacking the GOP for spending by the Lugars and then attacking them for the Tea Party’s agenda of fiscal responsibility is incoherent; can’t have it both ways.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • The Tea Party doesn’t have an agenda of “fiscal responsibility” anymore than the Republican Party that you allege came before it had an agenda of “fiscal responsibility.” There’s simply no evidence that either group is good at managing money and the budgets endorsed by each attempt to lower taxes, without simultaneously cutting government, which leads to decreased revenues and larger deficits. This is silly though. The Republican Party and The Tea Party are the same thing by a different name.

              Quote  Link

            Report

          • The Tea Party is about anger and resentment, not fiscal responsibility. Where were they during GWB’s term when Republicans were spending like drunken sailors? Nary a voice from the peanut gallery. Get a bunch of Tea Partiers in power and taxes would be cut, defense spending increased astronomically, and deficits would zoom further skyward. Kind of like what happened when Reagan was president.

              Quote  Link

            Report

    • Until Congress as a whole starts retaking from the Executive branch the perogatives its long shirked, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will continue its decline into irrelevance. (and really if you look at the recents chairs of the committee one won’t find much relation, so to speak, between their views and the main body of US Foreign policy of the time.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  4. Weep not o’ermuch over the demise of Dick Lugar. If he became a mellow fellow over time, he was not always so. The day will come in Democratic circles when a few of the old bulls are held to account for their disgusting connivance with the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq War and the billions, I suppose by now trillions, of dollars wasted on fruitless wars and abrogations of our freedoms. It won’t be this election, though.

    The GOP lost its way under Bush and the voters have been punishing them ever since. The era of go-along get-along is over. This isn’t the 70s any more. No more horse trading, no gentlemen’s agreements. While the filibuster remains in place, look for Congress to become a brittle and impotent circus featuring Tea Party clowns and roaring kayfabe. Nothing’s going to get done. Let the GOP elect these ideological purists. Such people always think they’re going to change things. They never do.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  5. “The GOP lost its way under Bush and the voters have been punishing them ever since. The era of go-along get-along is over. This isn’t the 70s any more. No more horse trading, no gentlemen’s agreements. While the filibuster remains in place, look for Congress to become a brittle and impotent circus featuring Tea Party clowns and roaring kayfabe. Nothing’s going to get done. Let the GOP elect these ideological purists. Such people always think they’re going to change things. They never do.”

    Well said BlaiseP! I look forward to it. Quite a while ago I realized that when there is “consensus” I’m going to get screwed. Divided gov’t is the only thing that currently works in the system to provide any restraint on the spenders.

      Quote  Link

    Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *