Much has been made of the Richard Mourdock and Richard Lugar primary Tuesday in Indiana. But why? After all, it’s only a primary. It’s a Republican versus Republican primary to boot. And it’s Indiana. These are all correct descriptions of the GOP primary, but they tell only a small part of the story. More accurately, depending on your word preference, it is an establishment versus conservative showdown or a D.C. elites versus purists ideological fight or a Tea-party versus RINO clash. It is this that makes the Indiana primary of interest. But what happens when the final votes are counted? What happens if the conservative challenger Mourdock prevails over the establishment-supported incumbent Lugar? Well, not much, or quite a bit — it all depends on your point of view.
Interestingly, from the left’s perspective there is cause for concern. Yes, Democrats are watching this race. If you ask a Liberal or Democrat that’s on the boob tube about a Mourdock win you’ll hear the only talking point they have: if the new guy (Mourdock) wins it means Democrats have a good shot at keeping Evan Bayh’s seat in November. The statement has no substance of course, as that show-down is too far off for accurate analysis, but it is something to say that hides the reality.
And just what is that reality? The reality is the incessant whining and blubbering from the left over the loss of “moderate Republicans” or “rational conservatives” or “well-grounded Republicans” continues. You have to look a bit deeper for it — which I confess, probably isn’t worth your effort. But it is out there. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s only natural to mourn loss. When you promote a party that rewards the intentionally unproductive and you need “moderate Republicans” to justify it, if you lose those them, it hurts. When you hail praise upon a party that promotes nanny-state policies, and rely on “rational conservatives” to help your cause, watching them lose their seats is a concern. When you subscribe to a philosophy of European socialism and you’ve relied on “well-grounded Republicans” to assist you in passing these anti-capitalism and anti-American policies, you feel the pain when you watch them fall. But don’t fool yourself, Liberals and Democrats aren’t dressed in black for the fallen individual (think of Bob Inglis, Bob Bennett, Mike Castle, or the retiring Olympia Snowe). No, it is the loss of their vote that creates the pain (see The Moderate Illusion). That is the reality. And now they may lose Lugar’s vote, too.
A Mourdock win has a different meaning for the right. In fact, it has a different meaning depending on where you are on the right. For the Republican elitists, like their Democratic cousins, a Mourdock win will inflict undeniable pain. The establishment has been forced to put considerable effort into saving Lugar, a 36-year veteran. An all-star cast of Republican elitists (John McCain, Peggy Noonan, Eric Cantor, Tom Daschle, Mitch Daniels) was herded up and put on display endorsing Lugar. Super PACs and their cash got into the game. So desperate is the establishment, in fact, they resorted to soliciting Democratic voters (see Establishment Turns On Tea Party) to take part in the open GOP primary in hopes they will vote for Lugar. Will the efforts pay off? We will know Tuesday evening.
For conservatives, the real objective of getting a conservative politician seated in Congress can’t be met with a primary election. But you can’t win a war without winning your share of skirmishes and battles. The replacement of an undesirable Republican with a conservative Republican is a skirmish. However, the circumstances of facing the Republican establishment on one side and their Democratic cousins on the other, makes it a large and meaningful skirmish. A win for Mourdock Tuesday will be a valid accomplishment indeed. It will be a rich reward to those on the ground for their focus, organization, strategic thought and hard work.
It will also be another example that the grass-roots approach chosen by the conservative movement is correct and it will energize other conservative organizations across the country. Of course, it will also send a loud confirmation statement to the naysayers on both the left and the right that the conservative/tea party movement is alive and capable of significant influence. And yet, a Mourdock loss, assuming it’s not a massacre — and there is no reason to think it will be — presents little downside for conservatives.
Mourdock’s current threat to Lugar, win or lose Tuesday, just reinforces to establishment Republicans that they still have to look over their shoulders and that their chances for survival are better if they stay in the shadows. But the strong conservative efforts in Indiana have forced these Republican hypocrites out of their dark hiding places and into the sun-light. And a RINO hunt in daylight gives the advantage to the hunter.