Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Shame on Joe Donnelly for pandering to the right

Sen. Joe Donnelly is the only Democrat to hold statewide elected office in Indiana. He will now be replaced by Republican Mike Braun.

His seat might as well have been Republican to begin with. Donnelly bragged that he voted with President Trump 62 percent of the time.

Donnelly’s campaign ads consistently portrayed him as a Trump-style Republican in disguise.

One ad featured Donnelly chopping wood and spewing right-wing talking points — a classic model for political ads for Republican men. The candidate dresses like “ordinary folks” and does something masculine with no relevance to holding political office — farm labor, handling guns or, in this case, playing lumberjack.

As he swings his ax down into a series of small logs, he proudly states he split with his party to support funding Trump’s border wall proposal. The ad oddly glosses over Trump’s absurd promise in 2016, repeated over and over again, that Mexico would pay for the wall.

The same ad had Donnelly railing against the “liberal left” for attempting to reduce so-called “defense” spending. Apparently, for Donnelly, spending more on military than the next seven countries combined isn’t enough.

Last April, Donnelly was one of three Democrats to cooperate with the Republican Party’s brazen theft of a Supreme Court seat vacated under the Obama administration. He voted to confirm Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who will now influence policy for decades.

Maybe if Donnelly had gone all the way to the right, switched his party and voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as well, he would have been able to convince conservative Indiana voters that he was their guy. Instead, he came off to conservative voters as a fake conservative, and to liberal voters as a fake liberal.

Donnelly’s imitation of Trump’s racist, xenophobic, chauvinist brand of politics would still be shameful even if it hadn’t backfired, ending in a resounding victory for Braun.

In the process of trying to appeal to the right, Donnelly even joined Trump in questioning birthright citizenship, saying “We have to take a look at that legislation.”

Imagine not being afforded citizenship in the country where you’re born and raised. That’s the experience Trump and Donnelly are talking about putting people through when they question birthright citizenship. That’s deeply wrong.

Of course, as terrible as Donnelly’s policy positions were, Braun’s are worse. Braun isn’t pretending to be an anti-immigrant demagogue; he really is one.

Donnelly’s loss goes to show that giving into the right’s racist games isn’t the way for Democrats to go. If Democrats adopted truly bold pro-worker policies, they wouldn’t need to cater to the irrational fears Republicans have stirred up.

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