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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sen. Lugar and the Socialists

In a stunning upset, Indiana's Treasurer, Richard Mourdock, beat incumbant veteran U.S. Senator Richard Lugar by 22 percent (61-39%) in the Republican primary in 2012. Even though Lugar's 36 years of experience in the U.S. Senate had seasoned him into a statesman on foreign policy, the Tea-Party-backed Mourdock was able to portray Lugar as out of touch and as too willing to compromise with Democrats in the Senate. Mourdock would have no intention of extending any hand across the aisle. Moreover, he demonstrated in his primary victory speech a lack of knowledge concerning the world.

"While Lugar advised in his concession speech not long before that Mourdock would need to work together with lawmakers in the Senate, the new nominee stuck to the belligerent tone he maintained in the campaign, warning that Democrats and socialists were destroying the nation.‘Today we see the Obama White House and we see a Senate chaired by Harry Reid that's doing everything it can -- though perhaps not intentionally -- to turn our dreams, to turn our great national hope and our dream into the nightmare of ever-growing government, to make us that … western European-style nation,’Mourdock said. ‘Just yesterday, France elected a socialist,’ he continued. ‘There are those I'm sure in the administration and in the left side of the Democratic Party that were cheering for that. But we're not going to stand for that in Indiana because the supporters of Barack Obama are not going to win!’”

To be sure, Francois Hollande ran under the Socialist Party banner. However, the “socialist” policies that he had campaigned on were redistributionist rather than advocating that the state own more of the means of production (which is socialism). By redistributionist, I mean that he suggested that la dette that Sarkozy had doubled should not be cut only by austerity (i.e., budget-cuts); rather, the rich should be taxed what they had been taxed before the top tax rate was lowered.  Sound familiar?  Absolutement. But this does not mean that Obama is a socialist for having urged the same policy.

Hollande also campaigned on E.U. policy. Unlike the U.S., the E.U. gives state executives significant power at the federal level. The U.S. Senate was intended to do the same thing in the U.S., but the use of delegates (Senators) rather than the chief executives themselves plus the shift to popular election meant the state governments would have little influence at the federal level. Hence the consequent near-consolidation of power in Washington, D.C. In contrast, at the E.U. level Hollande was in a position fresh from his victory to push for economic stimulus spending to complement the austerity programs in debt-ridden states like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. Not coincidently, even France suffered a downgrade on its credit rating on account of la dette francaise. Such stimulus is in theory a way out of the downward cycle of austerity-recession that has actually exacerbated Greece’s debt (e.g., more paid out in unemployment benefits, for example). Avoiding this cycle is hardly socialism either. Moreover, balancing stimulus with well-placed spending cuts (i.e., cutting the pork and patronage) is not something to criticism as if it were from a demon.
In short Mourdock may play well to partisans, but his knowledge of Europe (and socialism) is scant. Sadly, knowledge is no friend to a demogogue, and sometimes this doesn’t even matter—particularly if the people are all roiled up and ready for a fight (as in Wisconsin’s recall of Walker and subsequent election). To be sure, compromise is not always good. The two main Greek parties learned that lesson in a state legislative election just days before Lugar’s downfall. However, ignorance is not a good alternative.

Source:

Michael McAuliff, “Dick LugarLoses to Tea Party’s Richard Mourdock in Indiana Republican Senate Primary,” The Huffington Post, May 9, 2012.