I’m writing this obit (actually two, one for a Senator and one for a political party) a day early, but it appears that Indiana Senator Richard Lugar is finished. Down 10 points in the polls and reduced to pleading with Democrats to cross-over in tomorrow’s primary, Lugar is drowning in a flood of outside PAC dollars made legal by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
With Lugar, goes what remains of the Republican Party.
What takes its place? A party that is “an insurgent outlier – ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
That’s been my opinion since the 1994 Gingrich revolution. It’s now affirmed by Republican congressional scholar Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, and Brookings Institution’s Thomas Mann, in their new book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.
Lugar is a man out of time, who no longer fits in the party that Ornstein and Mann Describe. The octogenarian was elected to the Senate in 1977. He is best known for the Nunn-Lugar Act, which passed in 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing and the “need” for the vast U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals was decreasing.
The most immediate result of Nunn-Lugar was the deactivation of 5,014 warheads, the destruction of 384 ICBMs, and the elimination of 365 ICBM silos. The taxpayer got a bang for her buck; the largest reduction of Cold War weapons in history cost only three-tenths one percent of what was spent on the U.S. military while the nuclear WMDs were being dismantled.
In 1996, Lugar was the co-sponsor of the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Initiative, which trains civilians to assist disaster workers in emergencies after attacks using weapons of mass destruction.
All of this made Lugar kind of trendy after 9/11—in particular when the story broke about Osama bin Laden’s obsession with acquiring fissile material to build his own nuclear weapon.
But Lugar failed to recognize that times were changing—that after the Republican sweep of the House and the 1994 Gingrich Revolution the rules had changed and any cooperation with Democrats was anathema.
In 2006 he co-sponsored with an Illinois senator the Lugar-Obama initiative to fund a program that dismantled nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons stockpiles in former Soviet states. Lugar-Obama was incorporated into a House bill that passed and was signed into law by George W. Bush.
Lugar never quit.
In December 2010. he was essential to a bipartisan effort to keep the START nuclear-reduction discussion alive in the Senate. In fact, Lugar was the only Republican involved in the bi-partisan effort to ratify the treaty.
Ultimately, 13 Republicans joined Democrats to ratify a treaty that requires the U.S. and Russia to have no more than 1,500 strategic warheads and 700 launchers within seven years of ratification of the treaty.
The Republican Senate leadership opposed the treaty and characterized Lugar’s support of it as disloyal collusion with Senate Democrats and their Democratic president.
Lugar probably wrote his own obituary when he voted to confirm both of Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court.
The smart money says Club for Growth money ends Lugar’s career tomorrow. The anti-government, Republican organization will spend almost $2 million to elect State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, Indiana’s Tea Party candidate for U.S. Senate.
That’s good news for the Democrats, as Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly polls better against Mourdock than against Lugar.
But bad news for the country.