Tea Party 'paralysing US politics', warns ex-senator
The US Senate's longest-serving member has accused Tea Party radicals of pursuing a dangerous agenda of "cleansing" Republicans willing to work with Democrats from its ranks after he was spectacularly ousted from office.
Richard Lugar angrily declared that the US political system has been dangerously paralysed by the refusal of right-wing Republicans to strike deals with Democrat opponents.
The 80-year-old Republican senator, who has a long record as a deal-making moderate, said the US was being left "mired in the dysfunction" by hardliners in his party who were determined to "cleanse" the party of anyone who strayed from right-wing orthodoxies.
"I don't remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other," Mr Lugar said of the deepening partisanship that has gripped US politics. "Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives."
Mr Lugar suffered a 20-point defeat at the hands of a local challenger, Richard Mourdock, a 60-year-old state treasurer who has promised never to compromise with Democrats and was backed by millions of dollars of advertising paid for by outside Conservative action committees, or "Super PACs".
In a 1,400-word statement, Mr Lugar warned that Mr Mourdock's ideological opposition to "constructive compromise" and deal-making would make it impossible for the US to solve vital issues, most importantly its growing debt problem.
"He (Mr Mourdock) has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it," he said.
"This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilising and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring."
US President Barack Obama, who has often decried the partisan deadlock in Congress, issued a statement praising Mr Lugar as an opponent who was "often willing to reach across the aisle and get things done".
Celebrating their victory, Mr Lugar's opponents accused him of being a sore loser and failing to keep touch with the demands of the party grassroots after it emerged that the Indiana senator had not owned a house in the "hoosier" state since 1977.
The defeat of Mr Lugar, who studied politics, philosophy and economics at Pembroke College in Oxford, England, came as conservative forces scored another notable victory when voters in North Carolina passed an amendment to the state constitution that reinforced a ban on gay marriage.
"It sends a message to the rest of the country that marriage is between one man and one woman," said Tami Fitzgerald, the head of a campaign group that lobbied for the amendment.
"You don't rewrite the nature of God's design based on the demands of a group of adults," she said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)