It's no surprise, but long-time Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar -- not even a moderate RINO but merely a conservative from before "conservative" was just another word for "crazy" -- is out of a job tonight. It's easy to blame Lugar's loss to a generic right-wing GOP rival as the work of the Tea Party -- except we've already established that the Tea Party failed to exist the moment that Fox News pulled the plug on its creation.
So who whacked Lugar?
But it's worth noting that a primary factor in Lugar's desperate fight for reelection stems from the power of banking lobbyists. The Indiana Republican can be viewed as a demonstration of Wall Street's political muscle. In the words of Politico, "The banking industry is making an example of Sen. Dick Lugar."
In a rare loss for Wall Street, the Senate last year rejected legislation to delay a rule to limit the amount banks can charge businesses for credit card swipe fees. The financial industry mounted an incredible lobbying campaign — as Bloomberg reported, banks hired high priced K Street hacks, used conservative blogs like RedState, and developed Beltway advertising — to pass the measure. But a coalition of big box retailers, like Wal-Mart and Target, along with small businesses and other vendors, persuaded enough legislators from both sides of the aisle to kill the measure and limit the fees. The rule affected some $16 billion in bank profits.
Lugar was among the few Republican senators up for reelection in 2012 to vote against the banks. As Anna Palmer and Robin Bravender reported, bank lobbyists decided early on to use the Indiana primary today to make an example out of Lugar.
I for one have never believed that the Tea Party was Astroturf -- in the sense that these are real people with real unhappiness over the political state of affairs, But it's tragic the way that the Usual Suspects -- the Banksters and the billionaires like the Koch Brothers and the big corporations -- manipulate that populist anger to promote their highly non-populist agenda.