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JONES: Hoosiers still processing change with wary eye

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DEBATE QAre Hoosiers becoming more politically conservative or liberal?

 

Jones
AA casual glimpse of recent developments in Indiana politics might suggest Hoosiers are in the throes of an identity crisis. As a traditional dead-red state, Indiana produced few surprises. Republicans, for the most part, rule the roost, even with the occasional presence of Democratic governors or slight majority of Dems in the state’s House of Representatives.

So what are we to make of Obama’s 2008 victory in the presidential race in Indiana? Or Joe Donnelly’s capture of what should have been a safe Republican U.S. Senate seat in 2012? Or, perhaps more startling, the failure of social conservatives to obtain their coveted constitutional ban on same-sex marriage this year because of the drift in attitudes among once-reliable supporters in the Legislature?

Early in my career, a wise political mentor taught me about cycles and pendulums, and how the electorate balanced itself periodically by making adjustments at the ballot box. He said the only sure thing in politics was that the pendulum would continue to swing, and when things go badly, corrections would likely arrive with the next election.

While more pronounced on the national level, similar cycles occur in Indiana. The pendulum swings, but not far.

The shocking Obama victory in Indiana in 2008—the first time since 1964 that a Democrat had carried the state in a presidential race—is understandable if viewed in the proper light. Ditto for Donnelly’s unexpected Senate win. Even the failure of the marriage amendment reflects Hoosiers being Hoosiers rather than an impending change in attitude or ideology.

The presidential election of 2008 occurred during an economic meltdown the likes of which America had not experienced since the Great Depression. The Republican Party was largely blamed for that recession. Even traditional red states found themselves tilting—temporarily—toward the Democrats. Being a neighbor of Obama’s home state of Illinois undoubtedly contributed to Indiana’s narrow entry into the winner’s column.

In 2012, Indiana voters also re-established their independence from the red-state tag by electing Donnelly. Hoosiers almost always favor Republicans in these races, but will draw the line if they view a candidate as too extreme.

Such was the case with GOP nominee Richard Mourdock, who defeated six-term incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar in a Tea Party-fueled primary. The more moderate base of the Indiana Republican Party teamed with Democrats to opt for Donnelly, who by no stretch can be called a liberal.

Social conservatives have influence, but they don’t control the Republican Party. That was never more true than in the debate over the same-sex marriage ban amendment. The proposed amendment was changed, thereby delaying its path to implementation, because some conservative Republicans rebelled at the original language.

Society’s views toward same-sex relationships have changed. Republicans are part of this evolution in attitude.

Are Hoosiers becoming more conservative or liberal? Neither. Hoosiers are marching in place, reacting to events and trends with a wary eye, but willing to bend in the wind when the time is right.•

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Jones is editor of the Tribune-Star in Terre Haute and president of the Indiana Debate Commission. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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  1. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  2. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

  3. Good try, Mr. Irwin, but I think we all know the primary motivation for pursuing legal action against the BMV is the HUGE FEES you and your firm expect to receive from the same people you claim to be helping ~ taxpayers! Almost all class action lawsuits end up with the victim receiving a pittance and the lawyers receiving a windfall.

  4. Fix the home life. We're not paying for your child to color, learn letters, numbers and possible self control. YOU raise your children...figure it out! We did. Then they'll do fine in elementary school. Weed out the idiots in public schools, send them well behaved kids (no one expects perfection) and watch what happens! Oh, and pray. A mom.

  5. To clarify, the system Cincinnati building is just a streetcar line which is the cheapest option for rail when you consider light rail (Denver, Portland, and Seattle.) The system (streetcar) that Cincy is building is for a downtown, not a city wide thing. With that said, I think the bus plan make sense and something I shouted to the rooftops about. Most cities with low density and low finances will opt for BRT as it makes more financial and logistical sense. If that route grows and finances are in place, then converting the line to a light rail system is easy as you already have the protected lanes in place. I do think however that Indy should build a streetcar system to connect different areas of downtown. This is the same thing that Tucson, Cincy, Kenosha WI, Portland, and Seattle have done. This allows for easy connections to downtown POI, and allows for more dense growth. Connecting the stadiums to the zoo, convention center, future transit center, and the mall would be one streetcar line that makes sense.

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