The defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind) by Tea Party-backed State Treasurer Richard Mourdock in his state's GOP primary is an ominous sign tor the nation.
True, Lugar- the distinguished former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arguably the best-qualified Republican to run for president in 1996, and the third longest-serving member of the Senate- is 80 years old. But he exhibited an ability to work with Democrats as well as fellow Republicans that the country desperately needs in this time of increasing partisanship and ideological polarization. His opponent is a much more conservative type whose ideological rigidity was his main asset in the primary, and will likely make him a lot less valuable to the nation should he succeed in defeating his moderate Democratic opponent.
He probably will. But Lugar's defeat turns the GOP's retention of this seat from a certainty to a mere likelihood.
Mourdock is in favor of abolishing the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and has suggested that Rep. Paul Ryan's draconian proposed budget cuts didn't go far enough. Throughout the campaign he treated Lugar with deference, and began his victory statement by leading his supporters in a round of applause for Lugar.
President Obama released the following statement in reaction to Lugar's defeat:
As a friend and former colleague, I want to express my deep appreciation for Dick Lugar's distinguished service in the United States Senate. While Dick and I didn't always agree on everything, I found during my time in the Senate that he was often willing to reach across the aisle and get things done. My administration's efforts to secure the world's most dangerous weapons has been based on the work that Sen. Lugar began, as well as the bipartisan cooperation we forged during my first overseas trip as Senator to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Sen. Lugar comes from a tradition of strong, bipartisan leadership on national security that helped us prevail in the Cold War and sustain American leadership ever since. He has served his constituents and his country well, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
With Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine already retiring, centrist Republicans- once a large and distinguished group- are now a species close to extinction. The same situation exists on the other side of the aisle, of course; "Blue Dog" Democrats, too, are a vanishing breed. But unike Sen. Joe Liebermann, who ran successfully as an independent in Connecticut when an ideological firebrand defeated him in the Democratic primary a few years back, Lugar promptly endorsed Mourdock.
Ideology aside, Lugar's defeat is worrisome in a nation in which the center is rapidly vanishing in both parties, and the national debate is increasingly driven by extremists. At no time since the Civil War- and this includes the turbulent '60's- has the nation been as divided as it is now, and it can ill-afford the loss of men like Lugar.
HT: Chicago Tribune