The New York Times seems to have found itself a new favorite Republican. Yesterday the newspaper profiled Senator Dick Lugar, whose seat comes up for voter review in 2012, by noting that Lugar has been a “reliable conservative for decades” and that “mavericks are not in vogue these days on Capitol Hill,” two contradictory statements separated by — I kid you not — one single sentence in Jennifer Steinhauer’s profile of Lugar. As Glenn Reynolds notes, it’s not the only point that screams out for a copy editor, but that’s not the biggest problem in this profile by far:
Now, in the heat of the post-primary lame-duck Congressional session, he is defying his party on an earmark ban, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, a military spending authorization bill and an arms control treaty with Russia.
He even declined to sign a brief supporting state lawsuits against President Obama’s health care law because he saw it as political posturing.
Now Mr. Lugar’s willingness to buck his party is leading to talk that he will face a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate when he runs for re-election in 2012. It is a possibility that Mr. Lugar, who said the current environment in Washington was “disappointing” and “without a doubt” the most polarized he had seen since joining the Senate in 1977, understands clearly even as he declines to modify his positions. …
Even after the midterm rout that will remove many long-serving members from Congress, the idea that Mr. Lugar would be vulnerable to a primary challenge is a chilling notion to many Republicans, a symbol of symbolism gone too far.
“If Dick Lugar,” said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”
Let’s move past the “symbol of symbolism” and the urge to start sentences with “Now,” for a moment. Since when is Dick Lugar the canary in the coal mine for Republicanism? I’m not a Lugar hater by any stretch; he’s a six-term Senator and has done some good work on Capitol Hill for the GOP. However, Republicans around the country have made clear that they want ObamaCare challenged by every legal means at hand — and a large number of independents feel the same way. If Lugar doesn’t represent the will of the electorate, then he doesn’t belong in office.
And that is exactly what primaries and elections tell us. When did it suddenly become unacceptable to test that in a primary? Do elections put us “beyond redemption,” or does Danforth really want to suggest that Lugar and others similarly ensconced in power should be placed beyond accountability? Danforth and the Times seem to forget that we have a representative government, not a ruling class, and that voters get to decide who those representatives will be.
This republic managed to stand before Dick Lugar came along. If Lugar loses an election, it will manage to stand as the sun rises in the east. Also, one personal word of advice for Senator Lugar: beware of being the NYT’s favorite Republican “maverick.” That was John McCain’s position until early 2008, when the Times began a months-long smear campaign against him. Being the NYT’s favorite Republican is somewhat akin to being a snake’s favorite mouse.