Richard Lugar’s 36-year Senate career came to an ignominious end Tuesday evening when Indiana Republican primary voters chose Tea Party champion Richard Mourdock to face a Democratic challenger this November.
“He [Lugar] did not run a campaign recognizing the lessons … of the 2010 [midterm] election,” an anonymous GOP strategist told The Hill, “He could have defined Mourdock early on, and failed to do so.”
For Lugar to “define” Mourdock required he first define himself. Since 2010, establishment Republicans have scrambled to co-opt those around the Tea Party periphery by claiming the meaningless title “conservative,” with Mitt Romney being the most glaring example.
Not all Tea Party enthusiasts buy into this cynical strategy, however. “This will be my first primary vote,” Indianapolis resident and Mourdock supporter Nick Ellis told me, “I’m making sure I count now more than ever to ensure my Indiana is an example to all other RINOs out there,” saying he wants establishment Republicans to pay at the ballot box for their “betrayal.”
“36 years is enough,” said Ellis of the veteran Indiana Senator, “enough time to become corrupted by the D.C. political machine and to lose sight of the core values of the state you represent.”
A strong Second Amendment supporter, Ellis noted, “Lugar’s F-rating with the NRA didn’t help his cause either. I mean, how does a Republican from Indiana receive an F-rating?”
In a piece written in support of Lugar, former presidential speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan said, “What Washington needs is sober and responsible adults. We are as a nation in a moment of real peril, facing challenges that are going to become existential – maybe already are – if we don’t do something about them.”
What Noonan and her fellow establishmentarians fail to grasp is that many Hoosiers have patiently waited 36 years for Lugar to grow up and face these existential perils. Indiana’s Tea Party realists came to the conclusion that Lugar was much too old a dog to teach new tricks.
“The mainstream media keeps insisting the Tea Party is dead,” Nick Ellis reminds me, “But if the polls are any reflection of today’s outcome – that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.”
Lugar’s departure from Washington’s political theater of the absurd proves that reports of the Tea Party’s death are greatly exaggerated.
Lugar Republicans would be wise to take note, grow up, and seriously confront the perils facing the nation.
In the end, fighting for our nation’s survival greatly enhances the odds of your political survival.