Back when America was young and relatively innocent, it had a unique system of government in which elected representatives could vote their conscience regardless of their party. It was a refreshing contrast to countries like England (and Jamaica, Canada, etc.), where members of parliament must vote the party line or bring down the government.
An example of this type of politician was Senator Dick Lugar. Over his 36 years in the U.S. Senate, he worked on many bipartisan projects, especially in the fields of foreign affairs and arms control – where he was an acknowledged expert. It was this type of cooperation across party lines that enabled America to solve various national and international problems.
Lugar’s defeat in last night’s Indiana Republican primary is a dramatic illustration of the change that has occurred in American politics.
This is no longer Dick Lugar’s America. This is an irrevocably divided nation locked in an ideological struggle to the death. There is no possibility of compromise today; there is only victory or defeat.
Lugar’s loss was attributed to his willingness to work with Democrats in an effort to help his country. The man who beat him in the primary will do no such thing. He is State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a hardline Tea Party conservative pledged to reject any and all overtures from the opposition in Congress.
Lugar stated it best. Here’s what he said about Mourdock:
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.
Obviously, the trimph of Tea Party candidates in 2010 and the continuing influence these radicals apparently retain in the Republican Party have made it impossible for Lugar’s approach to succeed in today’s Congress.
President Obama learned this the hard way. His persistent efforts to achieve bipartisanship and compromise have brought him nothing but betrayal and sabotage.
The Democratic Party has yet to realize that the political scene has changed. Party leaders are still fielding “moderates” who apparently believe they can find common ground with today’s Republicans.
Its dismal approval ratings show that Congress no longer has America’s trust. Voters can see that the institution is no longer a problem solving mechanism but a battlefield for conflicting special interests.
In such an environment, there is no middle ground. And if the president and other Democratic leaders keep looking for a middle ground, they will lose the battle.
And, as the saying goes, to the victor will go the spoils.