Tuesday, May 8, 2012

EXTRA: Over the (Capitol) Hill club?

“Illiana,” it seems, has provided the charter members of a new caucus of Congress – veteran politicians who became too old to have the continued trust of their constituents.
MANZULLO: Veteran pol lost in March

Illinois’ primary back on March 20 provided the original House of Representatives member when long-time Rockford-area Rep. Donald Manzullo, R-Ill., lost a bid for re-election to Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

THE POLITICAL ANALYSIS and speculation in our state said that the two Republicans pitted against each other by Democrats who drew the political boundaries for the upcoming decade fought it out, with the voters ultimately deciding that they’d rather have freshman Congressman Kinzinger, who’s only 34, to represent them.

He was young and fresh and seemed like he could have a long political career ahead of him; as opposed to Manzullo – who will be remembered in the Rockford-area as a political legend.

But as someone who was only four days away from his 68th birthday on Election Day in Illinois, he was seen as having his best days in the past, during his 20 years in Congress.

That same sentiment seems to have been expressed in Indiana, where that unique breed known as Hoosiers held their primary elections on Tuesday and decided to dump their long-standing, internationally-renowned member of the U.S. Senate.

RICHARD LUGAR, WHO turned 80 last month and had been in the Senate since 1977, lost to Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer.

Mourdock is the guy who made his alliances with conservative ideologues who were desperate to dump Lugar, who wasn’t willing to play their partisan games to the degree that they wanted.
LUGAR: Followed Manzullo lead Tuesday

No rational person would have ever used the “liberal” label on Lugar. Then again, they spewed enough rancid rhetoric that it seems the people of Indiana were more than willing to back a younger man – even though at age 60, Mourdock isn’t the kid with the potential for a lengthy stint on Capitol Hill that Kinzinger offers.

But when going against one of the grand old men of the Senate (or at least as grand as any of them are, these days), it didn’t take much for people to be willing to dump a political legend (Lugar’s star was much bigger nationally than Manzullo’s, but both of them had strong admiration locally).

OF COURSE, BOTH of those politicos still have some time left. Their terms don’t run out until early January of 2013. We still have both Lugar and Manzullo serving in Washington for the rest of this year.

Although both now have the “Lame Duck” label dangling around them, and I’m sure the ideologues are now going to start up the chants at their first opportunity about how unjust it is that men who lost their most recent elections could still be in office for another eight months.

I’m not anxious to see either man leave, because their departure will mean yet another victory for the forces that want to play political partisanship games to the hilt.

For Kinzinger, his fate is secure. There is no Democrat challenging him come Nov. 6, and any independent candidacy that might crop up will be purely a token effort.

BUT IT HAS me wondering if, in Indiana, Democratic nominee Joe Donnelly (a congressman from the area around South Bend, Ind., and Notre Dame) has a chance to defeat Mourdock – particularly if the help he can get from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago political operatives extends beyond the fund-raiser they held for him in Chicago back in March.

Then again, maybe not.

For I suspect that the Republican operatives who are thoroughly ashamed that their state “went blue” (Electoral College votes going to Barack Obama for president instead of John McCain) in 2008 are going to pull out all the stops to switch the state back to the Republican column.

I doubt that those Chicago-oriented people of Hammond and Gary will be strong enough to overcome the rest of the state. If they were, perhaps Lugar would have prevailed on Tuesday.

AND WHEN THEY return to Washington for more work on Capitol Hill, perhaps Lugar and Manzullo can become a pairing; although not quite an Odd Couple.

They are the physical evidence that sometimes the voters can manage to overlook experience and first-hand knowledge in the ways of governing JUST to strike an ideological viewpoint.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Richard Lugar's concession speech, particularly his opening paragraph, doesn't strike me as the ramblings of a liberal, which is what his critics would have us believe.

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