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One of famed cowboy philosopher Will Rogers’ best known quotes is his reply when asked which political party he belonged to. “I’m not a member of any organized political party — I’m a Democrat,” he said.
One might say the same thing about both major American parties now, as one would not expect an organized party to try to overthrow some of its most powerful and respected members.
But some Democrats think their party should contain only liberals. Thus Joe Lieberman, a moderate senator from Connecticut who offended many liberals with his hawkish views on the Iraq war, was forced to run for re-election in 2006 as an independent after losing in the Democratic primary.
Some Republicans, particularly the tea party activists, think their party should contain only conservatives. Thus Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was forced to run for re-election as an independent last year.
Now the tea party is reportedly targeting Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who plans to run for a seventh term.
According to an Associated Press story by Charles Wilson, representatives from more than 50 tea party groups planned to meet Saturday in Tipton to discuss strategies to beat Lugar in next year’s Republican primary.
That any Republican would even think of challenging Lugar is hard to fathom. Widely regarded as the Senate’s foremost authority on foreign affairs, Lugar is currently the third most senior senator and the most senior Republican member of the Senate. In a legislative body where seniority means great power, he has given Indiana the most seniority it has ever enjoyed. No other Hoosier senator has ever been elected for more than three terms.
Though Lugar has generally won re-election by large margins, he told reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor recently that he takes the current opposition seriously.
If a tea party candidate would defeat him in next year’s primary, he might well follow Lieberman and Murkowski’s example and run as an independent in the fall election.
Both of them won re-election as independents, with Murkowski’s success even more remarkable because she did it as a write-in candidate.
And Lincoln Chaffee, a former moderate Republican senator, won election as Rhode Island’s governor last fall as an independent.
Granted, it is easier to raise the money to run as an independent in less populous states such as Alaska (710,239), Rhode Island (1,052,567) and Connecticut (3,574,097) than in Indiana, the nation’s 15th most populous state (6,483,802).
But Lugar has already raised more than $2.4 million for next year’s campaign and we believe he would have no problem raising millions more from members of both parties if he chose to run as an independent.
If he were to do so and win, many more politicians might follow suit. And that might be the best way for our nation to overcome problems caused by gridlock in the Senate, because with a significant number of independents it would be unlikely that either major party would ever get the 60 votes it needed to filibuster important legislation.
So unfathomable as it sounds, maybe a strong tea party challenge to Lugar might produce positive results for our country.
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