Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Elephant Dung #14: Tea Party goes after Republican Senate icon Richard Lugar

Tracking the GOP Civil War

(For an explanation of this ongoing series, see here. For previous entries, see here.)

Long-time Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana is up for re-election in 2012 and, it seems, he just isn't conservative enough for the local Tea Party contingent. But who is? Really. I wouldn't be the first to claim that the sainted Ronald Reagan would be hard-pressed to pass muster with this gang, given his penchant for tax increases and signing missile treaties with those darn Ruskies. Imagine anyone calling Ronald Reagan a RINO (Republican in Name Only).

It seems that Lugar's sin is that he voted to confirm a couple of liberal Supreme Court justices and voted for the START treaty to reduce the stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. It's not like he voted for health-care reform or the economic stimulus package, offenses that would likely have gotten him beheaded before they threw him out of office. No, just a couple of votes on the Supremes and a missile treaty seems to be enough to incur the wrath of the radical right.

Never mind that based on so many other indicators he's a fairly conservative fellow, which is born out by the fact that he's always been pro-life and pro-business, and an advocate for lower taxes and smaller government.

As David Weigel points out at Slate, the challenge probably won't mean very much. He writes:

Indiana's going to be complicated. If Mike Pence runs for governor, as everyone expects him to, does he throw his senior senator under the bus? Doubtful. If the GOP race for president drags on a bit, it will drag on to Indiana, driving higher turnout -- and Tea Party coups have not been won with high turnout, but with voter enthusiasm in sleepy late primaries. 

Add to that the fact that Lugar is just too damn strong and viewed as unbeatable by the political establishment and you have a colossal waste of time in the making. But that won't stop them.

 As one Tea Party activist remarked:

[We're saying to Lugar] thank you for what you've done. We respect you greatly as a person and for what you've done in the past. But to go forward, we feel it's going to need to be a different candidate.

Yeah, I'll bet that made him crap his pants.

You have to admit that these Tea Partiers are not shy. In any case, there seem to be a couple of candidates available more to their liking, though it appears doubtful that either will have much traction.

One of the things that comes through consistently with Tea Partiers is their utter lack of practical political sense. They are true believers. Fail their purity test, which is probably inevitable for any politician who has been in D.C. for more than a weekend, and expect to hear about it -- in a big way.

That may make them all feel good and noble but it won't do much for their electoral chances. Someone really should explain that to them, but I'm not going to be the one to do it. It'll be more fun if they figure it out for themselves. 

Makes you wonder what other Republican heavyweights they're going to go after next.


Update (by MJWS): Lugar, for his part, is being gracious, though you can tell he's rather annoyed. Take this brilliant comeback, for example:

"I've been working systematically for 20 years going to Russia trying to help direct a situation in which we're taking warheads off of missiles every day, destroying missiles that were aimed at us; destroying submarines that carried misslies up and down our coast," said Lugar. "I've got to say 'Get real'. I hear Tea Party or other people talking about they were against START. I said 'Well, now, hang on here.'"

Lugar continued, "If you want to get into START, let's talk about it, but realistically as Americans, not as some Republican renegade. [I'm] trying to take warheads of Russia [out of circulation] so they won't hit Indiana."

Lugar's an admirable guy, I say from across the partisan divide, but there's no way the Tea Party is about to "get real."

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