TERRE HAUTE —
This fall, Richard Mourdock has tried to move away from the mantra that helped him defeat Sen. Richard Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary last May. Those words won over the hard-right wing of his party then, but look woefully problematic to most Hoosiers participating in a general election.
Before the primary voting, Mourdock said, “We need less bipartisanship in Congress.”
Later, on national television, he declared, “I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”
He is running for the U.S. Senate seat that Lugar had filled wisely and independently for 36 years, until Mourdock and his backers declared the respected senator too liberal and too compromising. Now, with the general-election duel with Democrat Joe Donnelly tighter than expected, Mourdock has moderated his tone in an effort to appeal to skeptical Lugar supporters, who include Republicans, Democrats and independents. A Super PAC ad even ludicrously implied that Lugar was “passing the torch” to Mourdock, despite Lugar’s notable refusal to endorse or campaign for Mourdock.
The reality is, Lugar warned that an inflexible approach to opposing viewpoints renders a U.S. senator ineffective. “Parties don’t succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues,” the senator said in May. It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out who Lugar meant specifically.
Adding to our discontent with Mourdock were his comments on a debate question about abortion in the case of pregnancy as a result of rape. Without impugning his views on the sanctity of life, we have to say we were offended and shocked, as were many, by the awkwardness and lack of clarity in his words. That Mourdock would leave any doubt whether rape is the will of the Almighty was ill-thought — to a question upon which he should have been well-practiced. We cannot begin to imagine Sen. Lugar answering that same question so clumsily or in a way that appeared so insensitive to rape victims and women generally.
Fortunately, Hoosiers have a good option in this Senate campaign: Donnelly. For six years, he has served as representative of Indiana’s 2nd District in the U.S. House, exhibiting a willingness to challenge the lockstep, party-line mentality that has frozen the 112th Congress. Donnelly has voted with his party 67 percent of the time, according to the Washington Post database — the least partisan record of Indiana’s nine House members. He’s been aligned with Republicans on multiple issues, including gun control, tax cuts and energy legislation. He supported President Obama on various issues, as well, including the Affordable Care Act.
The mountain of ads from national conservative Super PACs mechanically paint Donnelly as a liberal, not representative of average Hoosiers, but the same groups mouthed the same inaccurate claims about Lugar. Compromise, negotiation and deliberation — the historical hallmark of the Senate portion of Congress — does not equate to fanatical liberalism. Donnelly earns our endorsement, based on his legislative track record of crossing the congressional aisle.
Any Hoosier should be able to expect sincere consideration of his or her ideas and opinions by their Senate and House representatives in Congress. Constituents should not have to submit to the office holder’s ideology, or come “to the Republican point of view,” to earn action by their senator. An Indiana resident of any political persuasion has a better chance of finding an ally in Donnelly.