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.