Richard Lugar’s Loss Spells the End of Bipartisanship


Republicans in Indiana ended Senator Richard Lugar’s tenure in the Senate last night, replacing him as their candidate with State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. One of Mourdock’s major points is that there is too much bipartisanship in Congress. I must ask, are Indiana Republicans so optimistic that there will be a Republican in the White House with a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress, or is bipartisanship gone forever?

At the start of the 109th Congress in 2005, there were 27 moderate Republican Senators. With Senator Lugar’s loss, there will be six, at best, when the 113th Congress convenes in January, 2013. On the Democratic side, the chance for bipartisanship has dwindled just as badly.

This does not bode well for other moderates. Moderate Republicans who once only had to worry about being attacked by their Democratic opponents during the general election now have to be concerned about attacks from the Tea Party wing during the primaries. It appears to no longer matter what has been accomplished. If an incumbent Republican has compromised, regardless of the positive results, they are seen as not being a true Republican. Senator Lugar’s loss also raises the question of how does this apparent rejection of moderation and compromise discourage others who might want to run for office. As stated by John Krauss, director of the Indiana University Public Policy Institute; “My biggest concern is what it bodes for the future.” “When you see a visionary and consensus-builder such as Lugar fail in a re-election bid, it may discourage people with similar skills from seeking office. We need to inspire and encourage young leaders, not disillusion them. We desperately need them.”

Lugar is not the first incumbent to loose or decide not to seek re-election because of their willingness to do what they believe is right, to form a consensus with the other side of the aisle, and compromise if needed. While party is important, Lugar and others believe it is more important to solve America’s problems and pass legislation that will implement solutions. It appears this no longer matters.

Every day we read or hear about another impasse in Congress caused by hyper-partisanship. If this trend does not end, how can we hope to resolve the critical issues impacting this country? The likelihood of a veto-proof Congress is virtually non-existent. This means the only real hope lies in the willingness of those elected to act in a bipartisan manner. With the departure of Lugar, I believe the outlook is not good.