Few people, I suspect, have a lower opinion of our current crop of political elites than I do. In my opinion, many if not most of the Washington time-servers are preening and venal mountebanks, interested chiefly in safeguarding their own prerogatives. They aren’t public servants but public looters. Year after year, sometimes decade after decade, they batten lavishly at the public trough, typically emerging at they end of their tenure shockingly enriched. I recently stumbled on an observation of Lincoln’s that is pertinent to our political class: Most men, said Lincoln, can handle adversity. If you really want to see a man’s character, give him power.
Look around: it is not an edifying spectacle.
I agree, in short, with those who say we have the worst political class in our history.
It is some consolation, then, to see that a counter-movement is beginning to form. Yes, we have the Nancy Pelosis and Harry Reids of the world to contend with. But we also have serious, plain-spoken folks like Pat Toomey, Senator from Pennsylvania, who understands the indissoluble link between limited government and individual liberty and who, moreover, believes that individual liberty is a good thing. (There are, I believe, politicians who understand the link between limited government and individual liberty but, not caring about the latter, are happy to forgo the former as well.)
Pat Toomey is a politician who gives one hope for the future of the Republic. Another hope-giving figure is Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for Senate in Indiana. Mr. Mourdock made headlines recently when he crushed long time “Republican” Senator Richard Lugar in the primary. I put scare quotes around “Republican,” but perhaps that is unfair. The scare quotes would have been appropriate around the word “conservative,” but many Republicans, alas, have given up on their conservative principles to join in on the Washington gravy train. Lugar, who hadn’t actually lived in Indiana for decades (“You can’t make me live there,” he said, sealing his fate in the primary), was an establishment pol through and through.Famously, he was Obama’s favorite Republican in 2008. It is said that Mr. Mourdock owes his victory to the Tea Party. Maybe so. Those who say it act is if that is a badge of dishonor or mark of unseriousness or “extremism.”
In fact, the Tea Party is extreme only in its ordinariness. It is made of of moms and accountants and shop stewards and small businessmen. Richard Lugar was a career politician. Richard Mourdock spent three decades in business, a few years as his state’s treasurer, and is now seeking senatorial office. If elected, he has promised to limit himself to two terms. He supports cutting government spending, is against earmarks, and would seek a balanced budget.
I was fortunate yesterday to be among a small group of people who met Mr. Mourdock at a semi-secure undisclosed location for lunch. He’s the real thing: bright, articulate, passionate, and level-headed. He is someone of whom one can say without smirking that he is a public servant. People who say the country is in trouble are right. They are wrong, however, to despair. As candidates like Richard Mourdock demonstrate, the hour often brings forth the man. America may have the worst political class in its history. Men like Pat Toomey and Richard Mourdock give one hope. Keep an eye on him. The smart money says he is going to win and keep that seat on the right side of the ledger. But Mr. Mourdock will not have to worry about being called Barack Obama’s favorite Republican.
Of course, there is plenty of reason to hope that by the time he takes office, Barack Obama will be just a bad memory.