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Opening Arguments

Home is where the votes are

If it was fair to make Richard Lugar's residence in Virginia an issue, it's fair to ask the same questions about gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence, and that's just what Democratic opponent John Gregg is doing:

Democrat John Gregg used a conference call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon to claim that his Republican opponent, Rep. Mike Pence, has "gone Washington" because of his 12 years of service in Congress and his home in the Virginia suburbs of Washington.

One difference is that Pence owns homes in both in Virgina and in Columbus, Ind., and he says he splits his time between the two. Lugar's Indiana "home" has been a hotel room. For what it's worth, I think Pence has stayed much closer to his Hoosier roots than Lugar has. Though only a small portion of his congressional district was in Allen County, he visited with our editorial board numerous times over the past few years. Lugar's visit with us for his Senate re-election bid was the first time I'd seen him here in several years.

What we're seeing in all these residency issues is the tension between what was envisioned for our government and what it has become. Poltics was supposed to be merely the mechanism by which ordinary citizens took their turn at governance, heading back to their real lives after brief service. Instead, it's become a profession, a small but powerful club for the ruling class. Michael Walsh put it succinctly in a post on Lugar's loss:

As I’ve said before, senators no longer represent their states to Washington, they represent Leviathan to the states, handing out either goodies or punishments as their whim and the political winds dictate. Their primary allegiance is not to the voters back “home” but to their cloakroom colleagues (hence the “bipartisanship” fetish that is particularly virulent in the Senate) on Capitol Hill, and to the Beltway parasites who feed off them.

The other problem is that never getting back to a private life means our top politicians really have no concept of what our lives are like and no sense of how their rulings affect us. It really does become "us vs. them." They know the political environment intimately. They know their constituents only theoretically.