I’m originally from the Chicago suburbs, but four years ago I made the choice to attend a little-known liberal arts school in Indiana. It was here that I began following politics enthusiastically, but even if I weren’t the political junkie I am today it’d be nearly impossible to ignore the remarkable occurrences concerning veteran Indiana Senator Richard Lugar.
Last night, state treasurer and Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock defeated Lugar, ending the latter’s nearly 40-year tenure in the U.S. Senate. Like Senator J. William Fulbright in 1974, Lugar was accused of succumbing to the temptations of career politics and losing touch with his constituents, enabling the widely unknown, historically unsuccessful Mourdock to seize his first significant victory.
As a part-time Hoosier, Lugar’s defeat is unsurprising. Driving around my college town and especially through the deep southern parts of the state on my way to Florida for spring break, I saw dozens of pro-Mourdock signs, and the anti-Lugar signs exhorting voters to “Retire Lugar.” In the last two months or so several of my attempted YouTube viewings were preceded by 30-second advertisements accusing Lugar of being an ex-Hoosier out-of-touch with Indiana voters.
Of course, these observations are secondary to Lugar’s substantive mistakes: the fact that he hasn’t had an Indiana residence in decades, his mediocre debate performance, and his alleged refusal to take the Mourdock challenge seriously. In the end, Lugar’s downfall is a sobering reminder to career politicians everywhere: don’t neglect the citizens who elected you to office. Because Lugar was so distant from his fellow Hoosiers — and because he was widely seen as a proponent of bipartisanship, such a dirty word in politics — his future in the Senate was shattered.