Yesterday’s forced retirement of Senator Richard Lugar of “Indiana” should prove a bracing lesson in the use of the pike for didactic purposes. It’s also one of the best arguments for the repeal of the 17th amendment in a long time.
As I’ve said before, senators no longer represent their states to Washington, they represent Leviathan to the states, handing out either goodies or punishments as their whim and the political winds dictate. Their primary allegiance is not to the voters back “home” but to their cloakroom colleagues (hence the “bipartisanship” fetish that is particularly virulent in the Senate) on Capitol Hill, and to the Beltway parasites who feed off them.
Indeed, Lugar didn’t even live in Indiana. According to this story, he stayed in a hotel in Indianapolis, at taxpayer expense, whenever he deigned to visit:
Lugar didn’t help his campaign when it came to light that he no longer owned a residence in Indiana. He instead stayed in an Indianapolis hotel when he returned to the state – using taxpayer funds. Mourdock’s campaign said the revelation symbolized how Lugar had become too entrenched in Washington.
In the name of “democracy,” the “progressive”-era amendment fundamentally upset the balance of state-fed power that had been built into the Constitution, tipping it inexorably in favor of Washington. Unmoored from state or region for a minimum of six years — and more likely, twelve or 18 — the senators now form a club without a purpose except for their own reelections. Far from enhancing democracy, the very nature of the office now mocks it.
It’s a shame that the GOP primary voters of Arizona didn’t see fit to deny John McCain a fifth term in the Senate in 2010, as payback for his “honorable campaign” against Obama in ’08 if nothing else. But at least we still have Orrin Hatch, a Lugar-McCain coeval from the 1930s, who’s been waging a silly seniority fight with Lugar for years when he wasn’t palling around with Ted Kennedy.
Hatch is smarter than Lugar and is more likely to survive his primary challenge from Dan Liljenquist in Utah. But a mighty wind kicked up yesterday, blowing away Dick Nixon’s favorite mayor, and it’s now heading west. “Lugar’s defeat is a major victory for the Tea Party and the latest step in the ongoing drubbing of moderates out of an increasingly polarized Senate,” writes Molly Ball at the Atlantic.
But polarization is precisely what’s needed if Obamism is to be stopped, rolled back and reversed; even if Romney’s elected, he’s going to need a howling pack of conservatives in both houses to help him focus his mind. With the nation’s future at stake, the non-virtue of Senate “comity” is a small price to pay.