In an age of politics bitterly fought along ideological lines, sensibility received another blow with the defeat of Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) by tea party backed candidate, Richard Mourdock. Lugar was someone who put the good of the nation and the needs of his constituents above party and ideology. His defeat sends a bad signal to those who would like to see Washington come together to solve the nation’s most pressing issues.
In politics, the center is the place where people get together to work out differences. It’s not so much a spot between the left and the right as it is a willingness to get things done. Many praise Lugar’s record of bipartisanship but let’s face it, he was no moderate. In fact, in 2010 he received a 100% rating from the Chamber of Commerce and a 91% from the National Taxpayers Union. His conservative outlook extended to his views on energy and the environment as the League of Conservation Voters gave him a rating of 0% in this same year. And he didn’t lose because he was too moderate but mainly because he had lived away from Indiana too long, literally and figuratively. Hoosiers wanted a new face.
Yet despite his conservative values, he was a sensible man. He was someone with which you could exchange ideas and who was willing to work across the aisle to solve problems. Lugar built his career on arms control, securing our nation from international threat but was also concerned with the United State’s energy security. The Lugar Practical Energy Plan promised better job-creating economic growth, U.S. global competitiveness, and environmental stewardship through more productive use of energy in transportation and electricity. To this end he was committed to increasing energy efficiency and encouraging the use of alternative energy sources. He even went so far as to vote for Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act in 2003.
We should all lament Lugar’s defeat as he joins the ranks of other sensible Republican leaders who have recently left or are leaving Congress including Congressman Michael Castle (R-DE) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). In fact, Snowe cited the extreme partisanship in Congress as one of her reasons for retirement. NRDC Action Fund staffer Bob Deans has recently published the book Reckless: The Political Assault on the American Environment, illustrating how detrimental extreme partisanship has been for environmental policies in the 112th Congress.
This year voters will have a chance to send a message about how they want their leaders to run the country. Here’s to hoping that message will be for them to return to sensibility.