The purpose of this blog is to get readers to think about the complex (or perhaps simple) issues I write about.

The primary topics will revolve around politics and society as a whole, but a mixture of sports opinion may be thrown in from time to time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What America Ought To Take From Dick Lugar's Ugly Exit from the U.S. Senate

Richard Lugar, the third-most-senior Senator in the United States Senate was soundly defeated by Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the GOP primary last Tuesday. The entire race was contentious, with Lugar claiming the race was more a "purification exercise" than one with any substance. 

Following his defeat, the ousted Senator penned a scathing letter in which he essentially lambasted conservative Republicans and their lack of desire to achieve bipartisan agreements in the governing process. In the letter, Senator Lugar writes: 

"Ultimately, the re-election of an incumbent to Congress usually comes down to 
whether voters agree with the positions the incumbent has taken. I knew that I 
had cast recent votes that would be unpopular with some Republicans and that
would be targeted by outside groups." 

With all due respect to the Senator, such a statement is a woeful mischaracterization of the political science behind the phenomena of incumbency in electoral politics. Sure, certain groups will not be happy with many votes a Senator takes during any given term, six years is a long time in politics but if the Senator is accurately going to portray which "outside groups" wanted him gone, he should be thinking about his main interest group-his constituents, the population of Indiana. 

Lugar lost for one reason, and one reason alone. He had grown so far removed from his constituents (he hasn't lived in Indiana for two generations worth of time),that he was serving the Senate, or maybe in his mind, America on the whole, instead. Reed Galen went into further detail about why Senator Lugar lost in a great article yesterday, so the only thing I will reiterate from Galen's words are that Senator Lugar had long since given up on constituent service. 

To elaborate, I am not just talking about answering people's mail, and their concerns coming into his office. He never really went back to Indiana! Like, ever! Much to Galen's overall synopsis, Lugar had reached a point (vying for his seventh six-year term in the same Senate seat) where Hoosiers finally decided that they were going to pay attention, and instead of voting him through yet again, they decided to end his "entitled" mentality. 

Now I am not going to deride Lugar for the six terms he spent in office. He is a good man and was a great Senator who did a lot for his state. What I will say though is, had he won re-election, he would have spent 42 years in the United States Senate, and the man is already 80 years old. What is the Senate if not  posh retirement employment (for most of them)?

51 of the 100 Senators serving "us" were born in the 1940s or earlier. There are only 15 Senators born in 1960 or later, and there are just two Senators born in the 1970s. 

Tell me, what company whose decisions have a huge impact on the lives of millions employ 28 people over the age of 70? The median age of the United States is 37 years old. The Constitution of the United States permits us to run for Senate when we've reached the age of 30. Do you see what I am getting at?

I've worked for a United States Senator, and I can guarantee that the median age of a Senator's staff is damned near 35 years old. I have great-grandparents who are younger than several current Senators. I can tell you right now that if I tried to correct my 79 year old, WWII veteran great-grandfather on matters of political substance, I would be caned to death on the spot. 

Yet this is the United States Senate today. An 80 year old Senator has 32 year old people telling him how to vote, where to go and not go, and what political implications might be if he does or doesn't do these things. The only thing keeping them from being caned to death is their expertise and the sliver of hope the old man will actually heed their advice. 

Daniel Inouye is the most senior member of the body (in terms of Senate Seniority) and is the second oldest member serving in the US Senate. He's already announced that he plans to run for re-election in 2016, saying: 
"I have told my staff and I have told my family that when the time comes, when 
you question my sanity or question my ability to do things physically or 
mentally, I don't want you to hesitate, do everything to get me out of here, 
because I want to make certain the people of Hawaii get the best representation

Daniel Inouye will be 92 years old when sworn into the Senate in January of 2017. He'll be 88 in September of this year. Who in Hawaii is getting great representation from him? L:ike Lugar, he's lived in Washington for decades. 

And Senator Inouye? You do know that no one possesses the testicular fortitude to tell you, the guy who lost his arm while climbing up a cliff side to take out not one, but TWO, manned German artillery nests with literally one functioning arm to step aside to let someone who is say, two-thirds of your age to serve the people of Hawaii, right?

The Senator is an American hero, but he's just one of many Senators who are living, breathing examples of why term limits might not be such a bad idea. The median age in Hawaii? 36.

America, if you can take any lesson away from the GOP primary race that saw six-term Senator Richard Lugar to the West doors on the Senate floor, it should be that no matter how great the man or woman might be, or even how great their constituent service might be, we need to re-think the ages of those we are electing to this body! 

The Framers never envisioned what the Constitution might "allow for" as the advancement of our society slithered its way through these previous 230+ years. How could they? Surely the men who signed the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution likely enjoyed the satisfaction of being popular among those they served, but we're 236 years down the road. Dick Lugar was seeking re-election that would have meant he'd served nearly half his entire lifespan in the United States Senate. 

We can consider term limits as a remedy, but what we as Americans really need to be doing is analyzing our U.S. Senators from an outside-in approach. If we continue to hit the re-elect button every six years, we're going to eventually look up and see someone who was once 45 is now 69 and none of us will know if they've actually been doing that much for us. 

Something to think about...

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