John Krull: The Indiana GOP and the biggest show on earth

This is what happens when the monkeys gain control of the zoo.

The Indiana Republican Party held its convention a few days ago. The Hoosier GOP’s nominal adults — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana — stayed far away from the festivities.

Maybe that’s because they saw where things were heading.

By the time the delegates had gone home, the Hoosier Republican Party was left with a ticket that included candidates for governor and lieutenant governor — U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, and Micah Beckwith, respectively — who barely pretend to tolerate each other and a nominee for state attorney general, incumbent Todd Rokita. Rokita already has been punished once by the Indiana Supreme Court and likely will be sanctioned again by that august but gutless body because he treats the law itself the way a dog does a fire hydrant.

It was as if all the primates’ cages had been flung open and the monkeys, chimps and orangutans had been allowed to fling stuff in any direction that suited them. Before they were done, the place — and the party itself — lay in shambles.

Braun tried to reassure everyone that he still was in charge. No one believed him. Beckwith sure didn’t.

The freshly minted GOP lieutenant gubernatorial nominee — who secured the nod by sealing up support in Braun’s southwest Indiana backyard — touted his plans and his vision for Indiana, occasionally remembering to mention the gubernatorial candidate while he did so. Many words could describe Beckwith’s demeanor regarding Braun. Deferential isn’t among them.

Beckwith is one of those self-proclaimed freedom fighters who believes his personal liberties have been infringed if he’s not allowed to dictate to others how they should live their lives. He earned his way into the nation’s spotlight months ago when his stint as a library board member who wanted to make it hard for young people to read books — as if excesses of intelligence and knowledge are the greatest plague of this almost illiterate era — caught the eye of the wrong person.

Hoosier author and treasure John Green learned that one of the books Beckwith and other members of the ignorance-is-a-virtue crowd wanted to ban was a novel he had written. Green had both the means and the media savvy to highlight the foolishness and the arrogance of Beckwith’s exercise in thought control — and forced the would-be mind police to retreat.

For a moment, anyway.

Beckwith seems to understand that a guy with his combination of moral arrogance and complete disregard for the beliefs of others was about as likely to win a primary election as Tom Brady is to have his statue erected outside the Colts’ stadium.

A convention, though, where Beckwith, who fashions himself a pastor, could preach almost entirely to the choir, the true believers who question no bit of MAGA nonsense, no matter how absurd, was another story. There, Beckwith could be spared the challenge of trying to convert skeptics and gather only the faithful, a small number of whom would be enough to carry the day.

Which he did.

Now, should he and Braun win, he will have four years to groom Hoosiers in his notions of theocracy, getting them accustomed to letting Micah Beckwith make all their life and moral choices for them.

Not even the grand inquisitor had it so good.

Braun is a different story. In his private thoughts, he must be wondering whether he still even wants to win. If he does — and it’s overwhelmingly likely he will — he’ll spend four years playing toothless hall monitor while Beckwith, Rokita and the increasingly extreme Republican caucuses in the Indiana General Assembly run wild through the Statehouse.

Their goal won’t be on getting anything done — governing is the last thing in which they’re interested — but instead on putting on a good show for the MAGA amen crowd.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey might as well take Indiana off the tour schedule for the next four years. We’ll have our own circus in permanent residence, right there at the Statehouse.

John Krull is director of Franklin College‚Äôs Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students, where this commentary originally appeared. The opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the views of Franklin College. Send comments to [email protected].