Brad Byrd In Depth: The legacies of two Indiana Senators, Dr. Milner weighs in

In Depth with Brad Byrd

INDIANA (WEHT) – Today we witnessed a final farewell to former Indiana Senator and Indianapolis Mayor Richard Lugar. His funeral service was held in the city he helped changed forever.

His death came less than a month after the passing of former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh. Their careers in Washington overlapped. More of a few pundits has said their passing symbolized the end of bi partisanship on Capitol Hill.

Full Transcription:

Brad Byrd: Welcome to In-Depth. Today we witnessed a final farewell to former Indiana Senator and Indianapolis Mayor Richard Lugar. His funeral service was held in the city he helped changed forever. His death came less than a month after the passing of former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh. Their careers in Washington overlapped. More of a few pundits has said their passing symbolized the end of bi partisanship on Capitol Hill. They were lawmakers, politicians, but above all they were statesmen.

Joining me tonight is Dr. Wesley Milner Executive Director of International Programs at the University of Evansville. And he holds a PHD in Political Science. He travels abroad and that’s just a segment of his very impressive resume. Dr. Milner thank you so much for joining us tonight. Senator Lugar and Senator Bayh represented different dynamics on Capitol Hill. How did they coexist and what was special about their political relationship?

Dr. Wesley Milner: I think whether you’re Democrat or Republican, and we’ve talked a lot in recent days about the changing of politics, both nationally and internationally, and I think if you see a number of things during that period in the 60s and the 70s and even the 80s, there was a lot more collegiality, more representatives lived in Washington and they were close friends – you could think differently ideologically and politically but there was respect for each other as human beings, as citizens and I think people at that time thought of each other as friends, statesmen and really working for the common good and we have seen a degradation of that.

Brad Byrd: And ironically, Birch Bayh’s son, Evan Bayh basically threw his arms up and said, I’m not running for reelection and that came about a year or two after Sen. Lugar lost that primary

Dr. Wesley Milner: 2012

Brad Byrd: So, years later here we are. How would you describe the state of how political system works or doesn’t work, depending on whether you’re a sceptic or not?

Dr. Wesley Milner: Well, I think you see some ebs and flows. You know, the 2016 election was very contentious, and we see the 2020 election coming up. I think many with the passing of Sen. Bayh and Sen. Lugar trying to look back to a kinder, gentler time as George Bush would say, where you have compromise, you have collaboration, without compromising your ideals. And now the vitriol has reached such a fever pitch and everything is so hyper partisan and hyper nationalistic that it’s difficult to encourage and incentivize any type of civility and reaching across the aisle to truly work for a solution.
 

Brad Byrd: And let’s get it back to the constituents, everyday people, how that’s affecting them. How is social media having an impact on how government works and especially issues that are important to everyone? How do you describe that in a tweet or even in a Facebook post?

Dr. Wesley Milner: It’s an enormous challenge, I think. The irony is you know the amount of information we have – a flood of information constantly bombarding us. We can Google anything, we can access anything, we can read any tweet at any time day or night, but digging down to the substance – the real pathways to collaboration and real change – I think is very difficult.

Brad Byrd: That said, what are your students telling you? How are they reading all this? And how do you read their interpretation?

Dr. Wesley Milner: I think we see students and average citizens; I think you see Congressmen and Senators that are fatigued. They’re fatigued from information and they’re fatigued from always being on, taking no breaks and I think at least with my students that they yearn for substance they yearn for meaning and they yearn to make a difference in the world and even politically and civically. But I think it’s increasingly difficult for them to see relevance in doing that and finding incentives for becoming politically and civically active.

Brad Byrd: And virtually everybody has been touched this era of pointing the finger – it’s not only President Trump, but also on the other side too. You worked in the intelligence community and it’s even come under attack. It seems like the government institutions that we’ve known for so long are under fire.

Dr. Wesley Milner: It’s true. In the last 30 or 40 years there’s always challenges and if you look at the three branches, there’s always a push and pull as the constitution would plan and indicate. But there have been changes over the last 20 years, but definitely in the last few years of increasing stresses on institutions like Journalism, the court system, and as you’re referring institutions of intelligence. And I think with the most recent president Trump, there’s been a big pushback on the intelligence community.

Brad – The connection with history…how we interpret history…do we even interpret history. I wonder how many people really know what Senator Bayh did. How he was instrumental in basically having a huge impact with Title IX guarenteeing antidiscrimination based on sex. And also giving 18 year olds the right to vote. And also Senator Lugar was instrumental in you say keeping the world safer.

Dr. Milner – Absolutely. If you look at the end of the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall fell in November of 1989. By 1990, you had the aborted coup, in ’91 rather. Right in the throws of that Senator Lugar working in a very bi-partisan way. 

Brad – So how do we take all this knowledge and apply it to what happens in 2020?

Dr. Milner – That’s a great question. I think that students and citizens and average people should become even more engaged. I think now is the time for people to become engaged and to try to hold onto maybe segements like this and those journalistic attempts really can get us to legitimate information.

Brad – Thanks for being with us.

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(This story was originally published on May 15, 2019)

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