Political courage is a rare commodity these days.
When an elected official demonstrates it, he or she deserves commendation.
More important, he was one of only two GOP senators—U.S. Sen. Linda Murkowski, R-Alaska, is the other—currently running for re-election to vote in favor of the measure.
Young’s vote isn’t likely to help him with the Republican base.
There is a significant slice of the Indiana GOP that believes the best solution to America’s epidemic of gun violence is no solution at all. Given their druthers, these folks would arm toddlers with assault weapons as they send them off to day care because they believe there is no question confronting society for which making guns even more abundant does not provide the answer.
More rational souls can shake their heads in wonder at such deeply entrenched delusions, but the fact is that gun worshippers vote. Often, they are single-issue voters who live to punish those politicians they think have strayed from the true faith.
They can be particularly hard on fellow Republicans, whom they see as apostates. Not all that long ago, they threw over the late U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana—for whom Young once worked—in part because they felt Lugar hadn’t shown sufficient devotion at the altar of the divine firearm.
They did this even though Lugar had given the GOP and the state more than 50 years of tireless service. They did it even though throwing Lugar overboard created the only possible opening for a Democrat to win the seat, which did happen when Joe Donnelly won in the fall 2012 election.
The firearms firebreathers didn’t care. Sending a message that refusing to vote the National Rifle Association line all the time every time would not be tolerated was more important than holding onto a seat in the U.S. Senate.
That was a decade ago.
Since then, the gun lobby’s fervor regarding firearms laws has become far less reasoned and far more fevered, thus heightening the risks for Republican politicians who opt to show judgment, independence and … courage.
Young knows what happened to Lugar. He worked in Lugar’s Senate office and clearly sees Lugar’s career as a model of service.
Instead, he asked Lugar to do it.
When I asked Young afterward if he was sending a signal by doing so, he answered with one word.
Then he explained that he wanted to honor Lugar’s years of service to Indiana, the country and the world—and, just as important, he thought Lugar’s approach to being a senator was one to emulate.
The times haven’t made that easy.
We live in one of the most partisan ages in U.S. history. Americans now spend more time screaming at each other than they do talking with each other.
Lugar thrived in an era in which it was easier to serve as an honest broker. During his years in the Senate, genuine differences of opinion weren’t treated as either personal insults or examples of blasphemy.
Young often has had to bow and trim with the political winds. It is no easy thing to be a Republican in what is now Donald Trump’s GOP.
But I’ve always found Young to be a thoughtful guy, one willing to listen to and honestly consider views different from his own. In today’s political environment, that’s a quality that’s rarer than it should be.
Todd Young won’t please the most rabid part of the Republican base with his vote on guns. And the realities of the day mean he isn’t likely to attract any Democratic votes with it.
But perhaps he didn’t make a political calculation when he cast his vote.
Perhaps he did so just because it was the right thing to do.
That’s not the most original motivation for doing something.
But it’s still the best.