Yes, Indiana is a reliably red state. But there are measurable differences among our urban, suburban and rural Republicans.
Indiana’s Fifth Congressional District lies largely in Hamilton County. If survey research is to be believed, many Hamilton County Republicans tend to be “old-fashioned” members of the Grand Old Party, in the sense that they have more in common with the party of Hudnut and Lugar than that of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.
Presumably conscious of the character of this portion of her constituency, GOP Representative Susan Brooks has generally presented herself publicly as “moderately moderate”–an unthreatening throwback to the good old days when Republicans who described themselves as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” were still welcome in the party.
Those of us who knew her before she ran for Congress certainly believed her to be a moderate, and the positions she chooses to publicize do little to disabuse voters of that impression; they tend to address issues having broad bipartisan appeal, like her recent statements on opoid addiction. Her voting record, however, is very different.
Indeed, her voting history was virtually indistinguishable from that of Michelle Bachmann, before the latter left Congress.
Most recently, Brooks participated in a GOP turnaround (aka “dirty trick”) in order to protect federal contractors who discriminate against LGBT employees:
The hugely symbolic fight on the House floor that most Americans probably missed is worth revisiting. The provision at issue seeks to repeal nondiscrimination protections that President Obama extended to LGBT employees of federal contractors in 2014. And although the final vote tally originally showed a majority of lawmakers—including 35 Republicans—voting against the measure, the Republican leadership did some quick arm-twisting among its members, resulting in a seven-vote turn around that kept the anti-LGBT portion intact.
Chaos momentarily erupted on the floor with Democrats chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer taking to the floor to demand answers for how the vote changed after the clock had run out.
It was the capper to a week in which GOP lawmakers across the country made clear that they will indeed force LGBT issues into the headlines this election cycle, even though it originally appeared that gay and transgender issues would mostly be on the back burner.
Brooks was one of the seven who “turned around” their votes, and went on record as approving of discrimination against LGBT workers.
I would never have anticipated that the reasonable Susan Brooks I thought I knew would become a steadfast opponent of civil rights for gays and lesbians, or that she would sponsor a measure prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, or vote against the Lilly Ledbetter Act requiring equal pay for women, or that she would vote repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or to prevent the EPA from regulating toxic emissions, or join in the discredited and dishonest Benghazi witch hunt, or vote to defund Planned Parenthood, or …well, the list goes on.
(UPDATE/CORRECTION: I received an email from Rep. Brooks office, saying that–despite the newspaper report I read that triggered this post, she was not one of the seven “switchers” identified in the article I relied upon. I asked a lawyer friend to check that assertion, since I’m out of town in full-day meetings, and this was his response: “Here’s what I’ve found; it is true that Susan was not among the 7 who switched their votes at the last minute from “yes” to “no” on Thursday — but that’s because she voted NO at the outset. Here’s roll call on it: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2016/roll226. This is apparently a “switch” in position–hence the language in the article you saw– but it relates to the fact that she apparently supported some similar non-discrimination measure last year, but this year (last Thursday) she voted against the similar measure. I’m not entirely sure what the difference was in the two measures, but apparently the one last week would have withheld funding to discriminating organizations. So did she switch from yes to no LAST WEEK? Nope. She voted “NO” at the outset, having “switched” her position from last year. This probably accounts for the confusing newspaper report you read.” I was also mistaken about the Lilly Ledbetter vote–although all Republican House members did vote against it, that vote occurred prior to Brooks’ election. Although I regret my errors–I really try to be accurate in this blog–none of this rebuts my central point about the Congresswoman’s overall voting record.)
I don’t know who the “real” Susan Brooks is. Perhaps–as many Hamilton County voters obviously believe–she doesn’t really believe in the regressive measures she consistently supports. Perhaps she’s just constructing a voting record intended to avoid a potential primary challenge, or to ingratiate herself with Congressional colleagues who can advance her career, or to position herself for a Senate race in which appealing to more rural, deep-red GOP voters will be important.
Or perhaps she really is a somewhat less crazed, blond version of Michelle Bachmann.
In other words, she is either utterly devoid of integrity, or a genuinely right-wing ideologue.
Either way, she’s been a massive disappointment to those of us who once thought much better of her.