Quote of the Day: Lugar Likely Latest Trophy in Parties’ Hunt to Get Moderates
Our political Quote of the Day comes from The Daily Beast’s John Avlon, who notes that Indiana Senator Richard Lugar is likely to be the latest trophy in the ongoing hunt by the bases of both parties to eliminate those hated moderates from their midsts. Here are some chunks of his piece:
It’s RINO hunting season, and Dick Lugar has a big target on his back.
Boy does Lugar have a target on his back. It’s as big as a Target store – not a target. And it is so virtually certain that he will go down to defeat tomorrow that when I write my weekly Cagle column that goes out tomorrow morning I can reliably write it as if he was defeated. No, there won’t be a Truman-Dewey style newspaper headline on this one.
The six-term Indiana senator was once Richard Nixon’s favorite Republican Mayor—but Tricky Dick looks like a hippie compared to the Tea Party crowd, and Lugar has several sins alleged against him that could lead his party to purge him on Tuesday.
First, he’s on speaking terms with some Democrats. Second, he once co-sponsored nuclear non-proliferation legislation with Barack Obama. Third, as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he definitely knows who the president of Uz-becki-becki-stan is.
Which is why severe conservatives from Rick Santorum to Michele Bachmann to Grover Norquist are rallying around Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party favorite who diagnoses the problems in Washington this way: “The time for being collegial is past, it’s time for confrontation.”
Talk about a choice, not an echo. This acid approach might fail in a high turnout general election but in a low turnout May primary, activists can effectively hijack the process. Certainly the signs aren’t good – Lugar is down 10 points to Mourdock in the latest poll.
Avlon notes that some conservatives (the more old foggyish kind who are not in the mold of Sean Hannity or a Tea Party movement leader talking at a rally) are starting to be concerned about this. He then goes RINO hunting examples — but also notes that DINO hunting is all the rage in the Democratic Party as well. (Uh, oh, here come the comments, and Tweets with that tired phrase “false equivalency,” which usually means the person who is accused of it has hit the nail on the head and partisans are in spin mode.)
RINO hunting has long been a problem inside the Republican Party, through groups like the Club for Growth—which has dumped $1.4 million against Lugar. They target congressman and senators they label “Republicans in Name Only”and justification is always a defense of fiscal discipline. But peel back the bumper sticker and there is a social conservative litmus test at work as well. Good luck naming a libertarian pro-choicer who has been supported by these forces. Or finding the organized outrage direct at notorious pork barrelers like Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Their bottom line is party line.
What new is that DINO hunting is starting to catch on in Democratic circles. This particular purification purge is still emerging—Democrats are amateurs compared to Republicans when it comes to taking down their own, as evidenced by the asymmetric polarization afflicting the right side of Congress. But just last month, the DINO hunters claimed two kills, knocking off a pair centrist Democrats from the swing state of Pennsylvania, Reps. Jason Altmire and Tim Holden.
He notes that the DINO hunting has been successful in some key cases, then writes:
This DINO hunting has been encouraged by progressive purists among the Netroots who tend to see politics from a national perspective—but conservatives who see Democrats in centrist swing districts as the most vulnerable have also encouraged it.
In this way the RINO hunters and the DINO hunters find themselves in a kind of soft collusion—they both want to see the parties ever more polarized. Their solution to DC’s dysfunction seems to be a cleansing landslide election where their vision is popularly accepted and the other team is effectively killed off. This fantasy is incompatible with the realities of governing in our democracy. But it is a tempting message as the two parties try to mobilize their bases while harnessing the historic levels of anger at Congress.
The result is that the next congress is likely to be even more polarized—and even less popular, if that’s possible—than the current one, no matter who is elected president.
And Avlon correctly notes that if Obama is elected, don’t expect to see him treated with respect by many Republicans. And if Romney wins, don’t hold your breath expecting him to be treated with respect by many Democrats (here comes the false equivilency barrage again) or you will turn as blue as the three day old tuna sandwich I bought at a convenience store the other day.
For now the storm front hangs over Indiana, poised to wash away the career of a man of civility and substance. Dick Lugar’s fate this Tuesday will speak to the strength of these professional polarizers and the future of the U.S. Senate as a place where serious people are sent based on their ability to reason together.
“‘Serious people’? What are they?”
Meanmwhile, the question now raises whether Lugar would run as an independent, but it seems unlikely.