If Richard Mourdock loses his campaign to be Indiana’s next U.S. senator, a lot of people will blame it on the wrong reason.
Many of them, particularly social conservatives, will say that Mourdock is just another victim of the intolerance journalists and other members of the intelligentsia have for people of faith. Because Mourdock dared to talk about his faith in a public forum such as a debate, he got punished for it.
Once again, the religious right will argue, liberals persecuted someone for being an evangelical.
There’s some truth to that — liberals can be intolerant of religious expression — but it’s far from the whole story.
If Mourdock ends up getting beat by Democrat Joe Donnelly, it won’t be just because he dared to talk about God at a debate. Donnelly, after all, did the same thing.
If Mourdock loses this race he should have won, it will be because he has spent the better part of two years determinedly demonstrating that he doesn’t belong in a deliberative body.
Less than 48 hours after Mourdock created a national firestorm by seeming to say in the last Indiana U.S. Senate debate that women shouldn’t have the right to terminate a pregnancy brought on by a rape because God intended for the woman to get pregnant that way, I did my weekly radio show.
Former Indiana House Speaker Paul Mannweiler, like Mourdock, a Republican, was a guest.
A listener called in to ask why politicians at times seemed to soft-pedal their own views in campaigns.
I tossed the question to
His answer was a thoughtful one.
He said that politicians have to figure out ways to get to 51 percent support if they want to get elected and if they want to get anything done. That meant working with people who weren’t in complete agreement with them. It also often meant creating coalitions by seeking out areas of agreement or shared interest rather than emphasizing areas of difference.
Anyone who didn’t understand that that was part of the deal, Mannweiler implied, shouldn’t run for a legislative office.
He wasn’t talking about Mourdock at the time, but I couldn’t help thinking about the current GOP Senate candidate while Mannweiler spoke.
The flap that Mourdock created at the debate was but the latest in a string of similarly off-putting statements.
Earlier this year, he said on a national news program that one of the things he liked best about politics was the opportunity it afforded him to “inflict” his opinion on people who might not agree with him. Mourdock not only did not disavow that statement, he reaffirmed it at the same debate in which he decided to blame God for pregnancies caused by rapes.
There also was the time that Mourdock said that his definition of bipartisanship was having Democrats become more like Republicans. That’s not the way to find common ground.
Statements like that make it clear that the issue with Mourdock isn’t his faith.
Hoosiers, after all, never have been reluctant to send religious conservatives to the Senate. Dan Quayle and Dan Coats certainly never concealed their religious convictions when they ran or when they served.
Nor did the man Mourdock beat in the primary, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who first earned public attention as a Shortridge High School student by saying his prayers out loud at Indiana Boys State, where he got teased about it by the other boys.
Lugar, though, could bring those boys around to work toward a common goal. Many of them came to support him even though they disagreed with his politics. Quayle could form partnerships with Ted Kennedy to pass key pieces of legislation.
That’s the piece of the process that Mourdock just doesn’t seem to get.
He seems to think of running for the Senate not as an opportunity to serve the greater good but simply as a chance to espouse his personal views. As he says, he likes inflicting those views on other people.
If Mourdock does lose this race, it won’t be because he talked about God.
No, it will be because he told voters that he doesn’t want to be the senator for all Hoosiers, just those who agree with him.
If he loses, it will because Mourdock made this race all about him, not about the state.
Not about us.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.