These are difficult days for politicians. Confronted by a host of thorny economic, social and public safety issues, they often feel pushed by constituents and party leadership to adhere to a strict (and sometimes extreme) political agenda.
Most politicians aren't strong enough or courageous enough to step out of the party line to advocate for what is simply good, commonsense public policy. Like political robots, they parrot party rhetoric and walk in partisan lockstep.
It's the safe route and the easy route to political stability and self-preservation.
But most Americans, certainly most Hoosiers, don't want government representatives to run on auto pilot. We want local council members, state representatives and a congressional delegation that wants what's best for us, not necessarily what's best for their political careers.
Here's the good news for folks in the Madison County area: Our representative in Congress, Susan Brooks, and one of our U.S. senators, Joe Donnelly, score high in bipartisanship, according to The Lugar Center. In the most recent annual Bipartisan Index, Donnelly ranks second among the 100 senators. Brooks, meanwhile, has the best ranking, 24th overall, among Hoosiers in the 435-member House of Representatives.
The center's namesake, former Sen. Richard Lugar, always represented Indiana's middle-of-the-road interests. Lugar, a Republican, was a leader in reaching across the party aisle to work with Democrats. While it would be a stretch to say that Donnelly, a Democrat, is Lugar-like, he's more willing than most to set party dogma aside.
A recent example is Donnelly's vote to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. A month ago, Donnelly was just the third Democratic senator to announce he would vote to confirm Gorsuch.
While Donnelly felt considerable heat from Hoosier Republicans, the fact he was willing to break with Democratic ranks to confirm Gorsuch shows courage. The best argument from Democrats against Gorsuch was that they should block his confirmation much as Republicans had blocked President Barack Obama's last Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
Brooks, meanwhile, has quickly developed a reputation as a smart and collaborative congresswoman. She's part of a small group of members of Congress who meet weekly during session to promote bipartisanship. This group seeks paths forward for important bills via support from both Democratic and Republican delegations.
For the sake of Hoosiers, Brooks and Donnelly should continue to view government decisions through a Hoosier lens, rather than a party lens. Maybe others will start to follow their lead.
To read a related column by Herald Bulletin Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide, search for his name at heraldbulletin.com.