By Representative Joe Donnelly
If there is one thing that defines Hoosiers more than anything, it's common sense. There is an inherent reasonableness in how we approach problem solving: an impatience with extremes and a desire to find common ground.
You can see these qualities in Senators Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar. They came from different parties, they had different beliefs, but they had a mindset that put progress ahead of partisanship.
That is a tradition I understand and respect. I've voted in Congress with Democrats only just over 70 percent of the time, making me one of the most independent representatives.
Why? Because it's not about Democrats or Republicans, it's about doing what is right for the United States of America. Before serving three terms in Congress, I helped run a small printing and marking business in Indiana. We didn't have liberal or conservative customers, tall or short customers -- just new and old friends that we tried to help. It should be the same in the Senate. We should help meet the needs of Indiana families, and work to strengthen the middle class every day.
My opponent, Richard Mourdock, won a divisive primary against Sen. Lugar, and the terms of that victory are troubling for our state and the health of our democracy. He has promised repeatedly, during the primary and afterward, to bring more partisanship to Washington.
On election night, Lugar warned voters that Mourdock, "Unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator."
Yet on national cable news the next day, Mourdock said, "I have a mindset that says that bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view."
Never mind that he changed the definition of bipartisanship -- what about a Senator who will focus on something a bit more at home: like jobs for Hoosiers, like lowering the price of gas, like helping the middle class make ends meet?
In my experience, no party has it 100 percent right all the time. That is why I'm so independent: why I voted against cap and trade and why I voted for the Keystone oil pipeline. That is why I support a balanced-budget amendment and why I want to end the tax breaks companies use to export jobs.
I'm the youngest of five children. Growing up, if I didn't compromise, I didn't get very far. We worked together as a family, and if I didn't find a way to do that, I was out of luck -- whether it was at the dinner table or playing baseball in the backyard. American progress requires working across party lines to find common ground and real solutions.
When Mourdock talks about his desire for more partisanship, what he really wants is to get his way on policy that he thinks makes sense: further unfair trade with China, tax breaks for oil companies, undermining Medicare by turning it into a voucher system and on and on.
In the days after the primary election, he said, "the highlight of politics, frankly, is to inflict my opinion on someone else." Mourdock wants to win partisan fights even at the cost of the middle class. My view of public service is different: represent the people who elected you, fight for what you think is right, respect those who disagree, work across party lines, and try to get something done.
Hoosier common sense. It's what our middle class needs, and it defines the core choice voters face this November.