Bayh, Lugar, and the Hoosier spirit of statesmanship
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In a matter of weeks, our country lost two legendary statesmen—Democrat Birch Bayh and Republican Richard Lugar—both of whom honorably served Indiana and our nation in the U.S. Senate.

While Sen. Birch Bayh and Sen. Richard Lugar were separated by ideology and party affiliations, they will remain intrinsically linked as two of the foremost examples of public servants, who were committed to people over partisanship.

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They both captured unique political zeitgeists of the 20th century. Birch Bayh, who swept into office during the heart of President Kennedy’s “Camelot” era, encapsulated the progressive optimism of the 1960s. In his three terms, he worked tirelessly to advance civil rights for African Americans, achieve gender equality for women and bring more Americans into the political process.

He joins James Madison as the only other American to draft multiple constitutional amendments – the 25th, which codified the presidential order of succession, and the 26th, lowering the voting from 21 to 18. But despite his impressive record – or maybe because of it – he was defeated in 1980 – a casualty of the Reagan revolution.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lugar, elected in 1976, came to Washington on the same conservative resurgence that elected President Reagan four years later. As a member of the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations during the collapse of the Soviet Union, he dedicated himself to securing and destroying the former power’s nuclear arsenal, making our world a much safer place after years of Cold War brinksmanship. But he too became a victim of changing political winds, losing the Republican nomination in his 2012 reelection bid to a more conservative opponent.

In this divisive political climate, we should take a moment to reflect on this uniquely tragic loss to our democracy.

As we remember their unique brand of statesmanship, we must also recognize that our nation continues to become more polarized, fueled by an increase in incendiary rhetoric, media echo chambers, and an unwillingness to find common ground.

Bayh and Lugar fought to heal our divides and strengthen our institutions. Yet, those very institutions are increasingly threatened by dangerous and growing chasms. Increasingly, our leaders secure their positions of power by stirring fear, suspicion, and hatred. Rather than pushing real solutions to real problems, they stir up false narratives about their opponents and anyone who might look, pray, or love differently. 

This is not a fair generalization of all members of either party—whether elected or not. But every day this blind tribalism is becoming a more central part of our identities as Americans.

It’s clear – now more than ever – that we must live by the example set by these two statesman, or risk losing the country they loved so dearly.

Sen. Birch Bayh and Sen. Richard Lugar enjoyed long, successful, and impactful careers in public service because they were beholden to the people of Indiana and the United States—not ideological or party purity. They worked across the aisle whenever possible to get results and steered clear of dangerous rhetoric that trades short-term political gains for long-term damage.

I was fortunate to know these two men, and I had the pleasure of serving alongside Sen. Lugar for several years. They understood what it meant to be true public servants, and the values they expertly conveyed have long inspired my work in Congress.

I call on every Hoosier, and every American, to join me in protecting their legacy by uniting against the growing threats of vitriol and blind partisanship.

We owe it to these two titans. They worked so hard to make a better world, and now we must work even harder to protect the world they left behind.

Congressman André Carson is the representative for Indiana’s 7th District. He serves as a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.