Veteran Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar, known for his bipartisan spirit and statesmanship, lost his primary race Tuesday to a strident Tea Party candidate after a bitterly contested campaign.
In Lugar’s concession speech, he summarized his fears for a nation in which partisan groups at both ends of the spectrum are “dominating the political debate in our country,” and are working “to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise.”
Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times….
I don’t remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform, and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader. (emphasis mine)
By the way…
I think Senator Lugar’s words may have a message for the Church in our day as well.