Red states

Born and raised a Hoosier, I was always kind of amazed at the way Republicans and Democrats shared power in Indiana.

From the time I entered Burris Elementary School in Mitchell until the first semester of my senior year at Indiana University, the office of governor was held by a Democrat. (First Evan Bayh, then Frank O'Bannon, then Joe Kernan.)

But, during that same period, Bayh was the only Democrat elected to represent the state in the Senate. (The Republicans being Dan Coats and Richard Lugar.)

And, even though Republicans won the state's Electoral College votes in every presidential election of my childhood, the state I grew up in somehow went for Barack Obama in 2008. (This was the same election in which Republican Mitch Daniels handily won the governor's race.)

This was amazing to me because my lived experience growing up in rural southern Indiana told me this state was much, much more right-wing than these mixed electoral results would let on.

I felt a dark sort of vindication the night of Nov. 27 as the results rolled in from the special election in Mississippi between Democrat Mike Espy and Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith.

After all the votes were counted, Espy received 46.1 percent to Hyde-Smith's 53.9 percent.

In our state, incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly received 45 percent, Libertarian challenger Lucy Brenton received 4 percent, and Republican challenger Mike Braun received 50.9 percent.

Including Mississippi's runoff election, there were four Senate races this year in which the Democrat did not win, but did receive a higher percentage of the vote than Donnelly.

In Florida, incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson received 49.9 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Rick Scott's 50.1 percent.

In Texas, Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke received 48.3 percent of the vote to Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz's 50.9 percent.

In Missouri, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill received 45.5 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Josh Hawley's 51.5 percent.

Florida, Texas, and Mississippi were all part of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Missouri, while being a border state, was a slave state. How did Indiana, one of the key Union states during that period, become more conservative than any of them? How is this possible?

Maybe I'm thinking about this all wrong, though. Perhaps it's not that Indiana is more conservative than previously thought. Might it be the case that the Indiana Democratic Party has lost touch with the very base that has carried it to victory in previous elections?

During the final days of the Donnelly campaign he released some pretty cringe-worthy TV ads in which he excoriated “the radical left” and “socialists,” boasted about extending the Bush tax cuts, and defended Trump's border wall idea.

I don't believe people dislike bipartisanship. History proves Hoosiers will vote for a candidate and not a party.

What Indiana voters don't respect is abandoning your party's truly held core beliefs chasing a few stray voters in the middle.

Rob Burgess, News Editor at NUVO, can be reached by email at rburgess@nuvo.net, by phone at 317-808-4614 or on Twitter @robaburg.

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News Editor