By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – That whizzing sound you heard came from the bullet Indiana dodged when Hoosiers decided not to put Richard Mourdock in the U.S. Senate two years ago.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
At the Indiana State Republican Convention in Fort Wayne, Mourdock went out of his way to demonstrate that his grasp of history is every bit as shaky as his understanding of theology. Or maybe he just wanted to find out if it was possible for him to offend and insult more people than he did with the infamous debate gaffe that cost him the Senate election that seemed his for the taking.
Back then, Mourdock managed to outrage victims of sexual violence, people of faith, their families, their friends – well, heck, just about everyone – by suggesting that God was an accomplice to rapes that result in pregnancy. Within hours, he went from leading the race against Democrat Joe Donnelly by a narrow margin to losing by a widening margin in what was otherwise a good year for Republicans in Indiana.
At the state GOP convention, Mourdock decided to continue his hot streak. He compared today’s America to Nazi Germany.
“The people of Germany in a free election selected the Nazi Party because they made great promises that appealed to them because they were desperate and destitute. And why is that? Because Germany was bankrupt,” Mourdock told those at the convention.
He then said the America of today was drifting toward the same bankruptcy.
The convention-goers cheered him, but other responses came in swift and angry. Leaders for the Jewish Community Relations Council accused him of being insensitive to the horrors of the Holocaust. Democrats argued he was mean-spirited and partisan. Thoughtful Republicans reacted as if Mourdock were something they needed to scrape off the bottom of their shoes.
No one, though, pointed out something obvious – that Mourdock was just flat wrong.
The German people never chose Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in a free election. The Nazis won pluralities in two German elections in 1932, but they never gained a majority of the vote. Hitler came to power because he made a corrupt bargain with the aging German president, Paul von Hindenburg, to have himself appointed chancellor under Hindenburg.
As chancellor, Hitler was able to consolidate power, begin his persecution of Germany’s Jews and others and, once Hindenburg died, establish himself as fuehrer. From there, hell followed.
In short, Hitler established his reign of horrors not through the democratic process, but by circumventing and thwarting it.
Those are facts – and easily verifiable ones at that.
Richard Mourdock loves to present himself as a student of history. If so, he’s a poor one – a student who forces the facts to fit what he wants to believe rather than adapting what he believes to the facts.
He’s also not a particularly astute student of economics. The U.S. government’s debt as a percentage of the nation’s gross domestic product has begun to decline – and even at its peak was below the debt-to-GDP ratios of most other developed nations, including Japan, Great Britain and Germany. It also is not as high as it has been at other times in our history.
The fact that the debt-to-GDP ratio is even as high as it is a product of our decisions, during the early 2000s, to launch into two expensive wars – one of them ill-advised – and give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Those tax cuts never delivered the promised economic boom. The tax rates for most Americans, particularly the most wealthy, are at the lowest level since the late 1940s, something grievance junkies such as Mourdock never acknowledge.
And the bulk of our debt is held not by others, but by us – by American citizens and corporations.
So, basically at every point, Mourdock was wrong.
Not just partially wrong or mildly wrong, but determinedly wrong.
And yet the folks gathered at the state Republican convention cheered him.
I don’t expect the facts ever will alter Richard Mourdock’s thinking. He’s made it clear that in any conflict between the facts and his ideology, his prejudices have the right of way.
But there was a time when the Republican Party was home to principled conservatives, people who pushed themselves and their country to deal with the world as it really is.
Those principled conservatives had little use for folks such as Richard Mourdock.
I’m hoping there still are enough of them around to take their party back from the determinedly delusional figures who want to lead it astray.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.