Rep. Mike Sodrel profiled in today’s Courier-Journal.


Representative and candidate Mike Sodrel is profiled in today’s Courier-Journal:

Time as working stiff shaped political views, by Lesley Stedman Weidenbener (short shelf life for Courier-Journal links).

U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel was smiling when he said it, but it was clear he felt frustrated.

Speaking to the Rotary Club last month in Clarksville, the first-term 9th District congressman said that people cheer when someone becomes a millionaire by winning the lottery.

But when you work 60 to 80 hours a week for 30 years, he said shaking his head, wealth suddenly is viewed as a negative.

Not in these quarters. You’ve not read the words “Millionaire Mike” at NAC, although on occasion I’ve referred to Sodrel as “Hot Wheels.” Personal wealth need not be a hindrance for a politician, and I’ll not say that it should disqualify a person from serving.

Rather, my objection to Sodrel’s continued presence in the U.S. House of Representatives stems from his positions and how these pertain to the state of the nation, not the state of his personal checking account.

Although Sodrel’s campaigns initially focused on his business experience, he has emerged as much a social conservative as a fiscal one.

He opposes abortion in all circumstances except when the mother’s life is at risk. He backs constitutional amendments to ban flag burning and gay marriage. And he has used those issues to political advantage, saying that he best represents the views of the fairly conservative 9th District.

In the House, Sodrel serves on the transportation, agriculture, science and small business committees. He won support for federal funds for the planned Ohio River bridges at Louisville. He introduced legislation that would have banned federal courts from interfering in the speech rights of state legislators, a reaction to a judicial order forbidding prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives that referred to Jesus or Christ.

And Sodrel has been a major supporter of President Bush, voting with him more than any other member of the Indiana delegation. Democrats call him a rubber stamp for a president whose policies have fallen out of favor.

In a nutshell, Sodrel platform personifies the distaste of so many Americans with the damning limitations of the two-party system.

It’s a simple question any child might ask: Can’t there be a political party that espouses fiscal conservatism, i.e., the Republican ethos of old, while maintaining a more libertarian stance on social issues?

It remains fascinating that Lee Hamilton managed to represent a conservative district for decades without curtsying to the siren’s call of extremism, as Sodrel does on a daily basis when the evangelical wing of the GOP comes calling. It remains ironic that an avowed free marketer touts one version of market freedom when it comes to earning income, and another one entirely different when the topic turns to matters of social conscience and civil rights, and yet could the theocratic state preferred by Sodrel’s clamorous faith-based supporters be further from the intent of the founders to separate church and state, and to keep them separated?

The bulk of Sodrel’s campaign talking points to date have constituted a repetitive über-pander to the religious right, embracing such mindless inanities as accusing his opponent of favoring violent video games, torching flags, preferring the Sodom & Gomorrah of the City by the Bay for the simpler pleasures of prom queens, Miller Lite and beef jerky, and being improperly disposed to benign tolerance and cultural diversity when a homespun Sodrelesque version of Torquemada is far more in keeping with the exurban fundamentalist prejudice that must be assuaged.

As New Republic senior editor Jonathan Chait puts it in an op-ed piece (also in today’s C-J), it’s all about the mid-term Republican strategy of “Running against the bogeyman” – and Chait is demanding substance. Where does he find it? In a Democratic congressional platform that few imagine exists:

… Because the Democrats running for the House of Representatives actually have an agenda. Republicans aren’t saying why the Democratic agenda is wrong, or why their own is better. They’re just ignoring it.

If you’re like most people, you probably have no idea what that agenda is. Let me list it:

  • Put new rules in place to break the link between lobbyists and legislation.
  • Enact all the recommendations made by the 9/11 commission.
  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.
  • Cut the interest rate on federally supported student loans in half.
  • Allow the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.
  • Broaden the types of stem-cell research supported with federal funds.
  • Impose pay-as-you-go budget rules, requiring that new entitlement spending or tax cuts be offset with entitlement spending cuts or tax hikes.

Chait concludes:

But nearly all of those campaigns are trying to run against a boogeyman. They raise the specter of a radical Democratic agenda, but they refuse to say what they don’t like about that agenda. There’s a reason for that: It’s popular.

I always knew my vote against Sodrel was fitting and proper, and although it may have taken some time, now I’m feeling good about my vote for Baron Hill.

And, as Basil Fawlty once said, “don’t mention the war.”