Friday, May 11, 2012

Today's GOP: Nothing In Moderation

Long-time Senator Richard Lugar was crushed in the Indiana Republican primary by State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party favorite.  The media has focused on whether Mourdock's extreme views gives the Democrats an opening in a traditionally Republican Senate seat.  Taken for granted in the analysis is the characterization of Dick Lugar as a "moderate."

It seems that all a Republican needs to do these days to be considered a moderate is to not demand Barack Obama's birth certificate and occasionally reach across the aisle in the spirit of bi-partisanship.  

It is true that over the years, Lugar occasionally broke with his Party by voting, e.g., for the Brady Bill, for the Dream Act, and for Obama's Supreme Court nominees.  But overall his record is one of a true conservative.

As David Karol at Monkey Cage puts it, "Lugar’s career is a striking illustration of how the definition of 'moderate has changed as the GOP has marched rightward." 
Throughout his career Lugar has gotten very low ratings from organized labor and environmental groups and high marks from business lobbies.

Lugar has generally voted anti-abortion and, once the issue got on the agenda, anti-gay rights, opposing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell despite polls showing the public favored that move. Lugar supported the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq War. He opposed the stimulus, the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform. He voted to put Robert Bork and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court. Lugar voted for the Gulf War, the death penalty, oil drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refugee and removing President Clinton from office.
Lugar obtained his reputation as a "moderate" because the Republicans around him veered farther and farther to the right.  As Karol concludes, "in politics you can move by standing still."


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