The Corner

Tea Party Like It’s 1976

Most Republican eyes are on the upcoming Wisconsin June recall election and the fates of Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch, but two other races to watch carefully are the primaries of Senators Dick Lugar of Indiana and Orrin Hatch of Utah. Both men were born in the 1930s and have been in the Senate since 1976. If the GOP is to have a future as a conservative party, it’s time for them to go.

Each of these relics of the Ford administration faces a stiff challenge: Lugar from Richard Mourdock and Hatch from Dan Liljenquist. Mourdock was born in 1951, a full generation younger than Dick Nixon’s favorite mayor, while Liljenquist is a comparative stripling, born in 1974. A victory by Liljenquist, especially, over Hatch would been seen as another notch on the Tea Party’s war club — even as the MSM is still trying to disparage the grassroots group as politically impotent. 

You can read Matt Kibbe’s j’accuse against Hatch here, and NRO’s own John Fund’s takeout on the likely soon-to-be-former senator here. Hatch is the worst kind of Republican establishment figure, who feints to his right when he needs to placate the people he “hates” and then, once safely ensconced in the comfy chair for six more years, resumes pursuit of his first love: Senate “comity.” Lugar, meanwhile, has parlayed a long-ago stint as Indianapolis mayor into a permanent Barcalounger in the Senate cloak room, snuggled up next to his fellow antediluvians, Daniel Inouye and Patrick Leahy, as the third-most-senior senator.  

#more#In short, they’re both still-ambulatory arguments in favor of the repeal of the 17th Amendment, one of the Progressive Era’s nasty little bundles of joy left on the 21st century’s doorstep. The two senators from each state (as per the Connecticut Compromise) originally were to have been picked by the state legislatures, as a check against federal usurpation of state sovereignty. Naturally, given the Progressives’ expansion of federal powers and of the electorate — the income tax, direct election of senators, prohibition, and women’s suffrage — such an “undemocratic” procedure had to go and, to be fair, there was widespread corruption in the selection of the solons.

Unfortunately the cure may have been worse than the disease, since senators no longer represent their states to the federal government, but rather are the front men for the feds to the suckers and marks back “home” — exactly what the Anti-Federalists feared. Meanwhile, a bloated federal leviathan rampages across the land, insatiable, while the “world’s greatest deliberative body” under the feckless capon, Harry Reid, can’t even vote on a budget. But heaven forbid affairs of, you know, state interrupt arguing the fine points of Senate rules or the ongoing discussion about how many angels can dance on a pinhead.

In our version of the Roman Republic, it’s the Senate that’s doing the fiddling while Nero is off playing golf, partying, vacationing, or dining on dog meat. Meanwhile, the country burns and the peasants are revolting. What’s desperately needed is a mighty wind to blow away the detritus, and since it’s obviously not going to start on the left, it might as well begin with Hatch and Lugar. The GOP bonzes obviously didn’t get the message in 2010; the uncomfortable view from the top of the pike may help focus their attention.

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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