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Dick Lugar Defeat in Indiana Shows the Dangers of the Tea Party

Shame on you Tea Party. By driving the defeat of 36-year Senate veteran and elder statesman Dick Lugar, you proved what many of us already knew: that Tea Partiers are as a whole are a radical wing of the Republican party hell bent on rigidly defending their intransigent beliefs rather than putting their country first.

Offended by Lugar's extensive knowledge and leadership in diplomacy and foreign affairs, his strong bipartisan record and his sterling reputation among his peers and colleagues, Tea Party members ousted the long time Senator in favor of state Treasurer Richard Mourdock whose promises to be a more "pure conservative" and to never compromise with Democrats resonated with the Tea Party faithful. 

To Tea Party activists, Lugar's 77% "life time" rating by the American Conservative Union somehow wasn't enough. This is not to say the six term Indiana Senator wasn't to blame for losing his primary campaign. Senator Lugar irked many voters by giving up his permanent residence in the state and living full time in Virginia, as well as failed to make a concerted effort to appeal to his base leaving many Indiana Republicans feeling that Lugar had lost touch with the constituents he represented. 

Regardless, the message tonight was not a reflection of Lugar's campaign as much as a clear statement that the Tea Party will not support bi-partisanship or compromise by candidates regardless of stature, experience or esteem. While the loss of a great senator who led the effort to dismantle Russian nuclear weapons, who was the head of the Foreign Relations Committee and who was rated one of the Top 10 Senators in 2006 by Time Magazine should not be diminished, the larger message is even more worrisome. 

The Tea Party's unflinching recalcitrance against compromise and reaching across the isle is polarizing American politics, forcing respected and accomplished moderates out of office and grinding the political process to a halt. A movement that promises to Restore the American Dream by "returning our country to the Constitutional principles," the Tea Party has managed to ignore perhaps the greatest legacy of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and the rest of the signatories of the Constitution: The ability to come together and work towards a greater common goal. 

It is no coincidence that the rise of the Tea Party coincided with the lowest approval rating in the history of congress. Yet time and again the Tea Party has rejected the calls by the American public for Congress to work together in a bi-partisan manner and pass legislation in favor of a rigid anti-government ideology. 

As American enters another election season, such dogma will only spell further trouble. Dick Lugar's prepared statement which served as part concession speech and part warning summed it up best: "He (Mourdock) has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it. This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve."

It is a sad day for Indiana, the Senate and our country as a whole, but as long as Tea Party remains an influential voice in American politics, darker days remain ahead. Tonight, my fellow Hoosiers and I mourn the loss of good man and a strong leader who was a voice of reason and experience in our government. 

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