By Mary Beth Schneider
INDIANAPOLIS—Too often in America these days, politics is a sport where loyalty to the team is valued more than loyalty to truth or what’s best for the public.
But in the last few days, at the federal, local and state levels, we’ve seen some glimmerings of independence. Little steps, to be sure, but optimistic signs nonetheless.
Mary Beth Schneider
At the federal level, we’ve seen virtually every elected Republican turn a blind eye to President Trump’s malfeasance. He stood outside the White House and asked for China to help dig up political dirt on the leading Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, and senators such as Marco Rubio of Florida shrugged it off as a joke.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- South Carolina, was the wingman of maverick Sen. John McCain and once called Trump a “race-baiting xenophobic idiot.” He has transformed into Trump’s golf buddy who saw nothing wrong in Trump telling the Ukrainian president that he would “want a favor, though” – a favor that involved trashing Biden and his son.
But apparently even sycophants have their limits. When Trump abruptly decided to pull U.S. troops away from protecting our Kurdish allies in Syria, exposing them to decimation by Turkey, Graham finally found his inner McCain and called it “shameful.”
And Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican who was the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012, opposed Trump on both issues. “The president’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling,” Romney tweeted. He added in another tweet: “It strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.”
He, too, called the abandonment of Kurdish allies, who have lost thousands of soldiers fighting ISIS, a shameful betrayal that cedes influence to terrorists.
It’s not much. It’s not akin yet to those Republicans who in 1974 voted on the House Judiciary Committee to impeach President Richard Nixon. It’s not equal to the handful of Republicans who denounce Trump as a betrayal of conservative values, such as Peter Rusthoven, an Indianapolis attorney, who is part of “Republicans for the Rule of Law,” a group of so-called “Never Trumpers.”
But it’s a crack in the stonewall.
At the local level, we saw Democrats buck party leaders to pick Ryan Mears over Tim Moriarty to fill the remainder of Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry’s term. Curry bowed out as he continues to battle cancer, and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, U.S. Rep. Andre Carson and City-County Council President Vop Osili threw their considerable political weight behind Moriarty, who is Hogsett’s attorney.
The precinct committee members who got the vote, however, chose Mears, a long-time deputy prosecutor. In doing so, they chose on-the-job experience over political muscle.
Can I get an amen?
Lastly, we saw a Republican statewide officeholder—Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick – go to Gary to introduce Democratic State Sen. Eddie Melton as he launched his campaign for governor against GOP incumbent Gov. Eric Holcomb.
In Indiana politics, that kind of thing is just not done.
But McCormick has shrugged at partisan restraints throughout her term. This summer, she joined Melton on a listening tour as he heard about and discussed education issues with parents and teachers around the state.
An apoplectic Kyle Hupfer, the state GOP chairman, huffed in a tweet at the time that it “begs the question whether Jennifer McCormick is still a Republican” and accused her of auditioning for a spot on the Democratic ticket.
McCormick turned down the chance to run for a second term as Indiana’s top education official, and that job will become an appointed position after the 2020 elections. Whether she wants to be in a political office again remains an open question that neither she nor Melton has answered.
But in introducing Melton, McCormick made her declaration of political independence.
“This is about loyalty to Indiana. This is about loyalty to our voters. This is about loyalty to our kids,” she said.
Imagine that. An elected official making people their priority over party.
Back in 1787, a group of Massachusetts farmers rose up against tax collections they felt were unfair. Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to James Madison expressing his view that people have a right to voice their disagreements with their government.
“A little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” Jefferson wrote.
Those farmers, mind you, took up arms in what became known as Shay’s Rebellion. I’m certainly not advocating that. But rebellious words? Rebellion against partisan straitjackets?
Yes, Jefferson. That’s a good thing.
Mary Beth Schneider is an editor with TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalists.