On Tuesday, PBS hosted the final Indiana Senate debate pitting Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly against his Republican challenger Mike Braun and Libertarian opponent Lucy Brenton. The hour-long debate boasted few surprises policy-wise, yet prompted an unforced error when the embattled sitting senator put on display his racism of low expectations.
The misstep occurred when Donnelly attempted to showcase the diversity of his staff, telling Hoosiers: “We want everybody to have a chance in Indiana and in America, and my offices reflect that—both on the campaign side and on the Senate side. Our state director is Indian America, but he does an amazing job. Our director of all constituent services, she’s African American, but she does an even more incredible job than you can ever imagine.”
While one “but” could have been excused as a misspeak, Donnelly’s second example of a staffer who is African-American, “but” does “an incredible job” more “than you can ever imagine,” exposes the underlying mindset of the supposed moderate—a mindset that matches his D.C. liberal colleagues’ views on race.
That Donnelly shares the left’s soft bigotry of low expectations comes as no surprise to those following his career. The self-professed moderate has long since abandoned the Midwest values of his constituents.
Years of liberal grooming, first by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and now by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have rendered Donnelly a pro-lifer in name but not heart, and have pushed him to tacitly endorse Democrats’ vile character assassination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Donnelly’s gaffe in this week’s debate merely highlighted how warped his perspective has become—a perspective that sees surprise when racial minorities do an amazing and incredible job.
In contrast to Donnelly’s condescension, both Braun and Brenton spoke of seeing the individual and not the color, creed, or race. They spoke of the need for a color-blind society that provides opportunities for all and discriminates against none.
“Can’t we see what is inside?” Braun asked, not color or some shallow difference. Let’s look at the individual, the Republican challenger pleaded, not “at a bar graph” tallying people by group.
Donnelly likely recognized his misstep after the second “but” left his mouth, quickly backtracking: “It isn’t their race or their religion, it’s the incredible person that they are.” The embattled Democratic incumbent then attempted to portray his views as matching that of his opponents (and Hoosier voters), adding that “they have to have a chance. They have to have an opportunity, and that’s my responsibility.”
Yet Donnelly just couldn’t shake the liberal talking points on which he cut his political teeth. “My campaigns and our Senate office,” the Democrat senator proclaimed, “should reflect the face of Indiana.” While this soundbite might sell to the left-of-center, moderates and conservatives recognize the platitude for what it is—a call to quotas to achieve perfect parity. No wonder, then, that Donnelly sees minorities’ success as surprising.
Ironically, for all of Donnelly’s pandering, the last two years of Republican leadership have offered African-Americans and other minorities more real opportunities than anything Donnelly has done in his last decade in D.C. Last month, black unemployment rates came in at a record low of 6 percent, with Asians (3.5 percent) and Hispanics (4.5 percent) figures showing similar low levels of unemployment.
Braun hammered this point, also telling me, “After eight years of tepid economic growth under Senator Donnelly and President Obama’s high-tax, high-regulation policies, an outsider businessman like President Trump has our economy roaring again, and roaring for all Americans.”
The roaring economy coupled with Braun’s outsider businessman appeal make Donnelly one of the most endangered Democrats in the nation, even with a third-party candidate siphoning about 5 percent of the vote. The Democrats seem to place more hope in the Libertarian candidate winning the race for Donnelly than Donnelly’s record, as they are funding ads for her.
Donnelly clearly senses his liberal Washington values are out-of-step in the red state that President Trump carried 57 to 38 percent. In a desperate last-minute attempt to answer critics, Donnelly took the bizarre tack of filming a closing political ad admitting that voters might not agree with him, but hey, they should still vote for him because he’s a nice guy.
Here’s a newsflash for the “good” senator: A nice guy doesn’t stand by while his Democratic colleagues seek to destroy the reputation of a good man in order to preserve the pro-abortion majority opinion of Roe v. Wade. Just as liberals’ attacks on Kavanaugh failed, Donnelly is likely to fail in his reelection bid. We will know in four short days.