Mr. Lugar was elected to represent Indiana in 1976, after managing a family farm and food-machinery business and serving as the mayor of Indianapolis. He rose to become the leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before he was defeated in a 2012 GOP primary by a tea-party-backed insurgent who branded him as insufficiently conservative.
There wasn’t much I could do about it, but that loss was the proof that Indiana had slipped its moorings.
My “Richard Lugar Memory” was a remarkable Lincoln Day Dinner speech in my home county in what must have been the mid-1980s. I was still (and for another 20 years or so) notionally a Republican.
Lugar had just returned from a junket in the Phillipines, was a bit jet-lagged, but spoke brilliantly, mesmerizingly, without notes, for what seemed like forever but not long enough.
Among other things, he warned the assembled Republicans not to believe the propaganda that the opponents of Ferdinand Marcos were a bunch of Communists. Rather, Marcos was supported only by plutocrats with medium and small business and all others in opposition.
The propaganda was pretty consistent with the Republican party line, but Lugar was prophetic, Marcos was ousted in the aftermath of a notoriously corrupt snap election, and the Phillipines were better for it.
I never voted for anyone but Lugar when he was on the ballot thereafter. He wasn’t just one of Indiana’s best, but one of the best, period, full stop.
We didn’t deserve him, the GOP ousted him for a fool (after I had repudiated the party but generally voted in its primaries, as Indiana doesn’t have voter registration by party), and the Republican party paid for that folly by losing the Senate seat to Joe Donnelly, duly replaced 6 years later by another Republican fool (the one of three primary candidates who most convincingly promised slavish fealty to the Überfool in the White House).
I’m glad for him that Richard Lugar did not live to see the denoument of this American tragedy.
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