Imagine channel surfing late at night and you accidentally stop on an old black and white TV show. The story is about a woman who has just relocated to southern Indiana in the recent past. She is a Republican, but preparing to vote in Indiana for the first time. She is entering another dimension. It is the year 2016.
In reality, in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District, Shelli Yoder (D) is her only choice. It’s great news for Democrats that in this race, Yoder is unquestionably qualified and capable. Her priorities for the district match the people’s who live there. She wants to create good paying jobs, force government to be fiscally responsible, balance budgets and improve education. And she is predictably Hoosier for the simplest of reasons: she is one.
That seems to be a big deal this year. More so than normal.
But on our black and white TV show, our character planned on registering to vote in her new town, and stay the course as a member of the GOP. No sweat, right? Indiana is a red state, so this shouldn’t be a problem at all. Until this out-of-towner starts to see Republican congressional campaigns colliding with one another.
The camera pans to Rod Serling, who says “you are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. You have just entered The Indiana Republican Zone.”
For the last few weeks, the GOP has been preoccupied with the residency of former U.S. Senator and Indiana Governor Evan Bayh. He spent twelve years in the U.S. Senate on Indiana’s behalf from 1999-2011, and the GOP is apparently troubled that he hasn’t “come home” the way they believe he should have.
The TV show’s character seems to agree. After all, shouldn’t her new community be represented in Washington by someone who lives here? Besides, she wanted to vote Republican any way.
One problem with all that is Senator Bayh is a Hoosier. In DC, he is thought of as a Hoosier. Those folks out there are likely to geographically compare him to, say, Dan Coats. I write that in hopes of not offending either Senator, but to build up to the larger point today.
The GOP is trying to convince the undecided or new voter to vote against Evan Bayh in part because of this residency issue. Simultaneously, the GOP has a congressional nominee in the 9th District who is so not from here, many are tired of discussing it.
Trey Hollingsworth is that candidate. I have not met him. I doubt I will. I have heard he is a bright young man, and that he talks the talk of conservative, very conservative politics.
Hollingsworth is from Tennessee. I love Tennessee. I have family who live in East Tennessee. And they also have no business running for congress in Indiana either. Let’s see if any of my family reads my column this week and calls me to complain about that callous remark.
Who knows? Maybe the state GOP is conceding the 9th congressional district to Yoder, the obviously better candidate. Some might say the Democrats are conceding the 3rd district in northeast Indiana to State Sen. Jim Banks, the better candidate there. It happens.
Serling’s lead character on the show needs to know if living here or being from here matters or not. I think it does matter.
Evan Bayh is unquestionably Hoosier. For that matter, so is Todd Young. And it is important for purposes of this discussion to be clear that so is Shelli Yoder.
A voter can’t take issue with Bayh’s most recent sleeping quarters, and vote against him because of it, and then turn around and vote for Trey Hollingsworth. Well, this is America, so yes they can. I would profile a voter who would do such a thing as someone who is almost certain to vote for another candidate who is unfit to serve: Donald Trump. For all of the pollsters having trouble identifying the “Trump voter,” this is certainly one way.
If we apply political principles consistently, the outcomes will serve us well. Those principles will see us through this confusing and chaotic election year.
Over the years, I have had occasion to meet Bayh, Young and Yoder multiple times. I’m from here. As are they. And in the grand scheme of things, Indiana is a very small place.
So come election time, being from Indiana matters. On the TV show, Tennessee would be another dimension.