By John Krull

March 13, 2024

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, made some news the other day.

He said he wouldn’t be endorsing a candidate in the presidential election.

The senator was, as usual, diplomatic and courteous in refusing to put his stamp of approval on the candidacy of former President Donald Trump. He did not take any shots at Trump, who has been indicted four times on 91 criminal charges, had another court determine he committed rape and yet another rule that he engaged in fraud.

No, Young just said he thought the people of Indiana were capable of making up their own minds without the benefit of his counsel.

It was a graceful, even elegant gesture in this ungraceful, inelegant era.

Still, Young is likely to pay a price for it.

Trump operates with a kind of binary savagery. Anyone who is not completely for him the former president automatically considers to be an enemy, someone to punish if that someone cannot be crushed.

Trump will not be shy about telling his MAGA minions that Young is persona non grata in Trump world.

Such a curse can make life difficult for any Republican.

Nor will Young’s refusal to kiss the former president’s ring earn the senator many friends across the aisle. The detestation most Democrats feel for Trump is so overwhelming that they demand constant, vocal outright opposition to the former president and all things MAGA.

Anything short of that is well short of acceptable in their eyes.

That’s a pity.

Because what Young is doing demonstrates a quality rare in public life these days.


Skeptics note that two other Republican senators—Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—have opted not to endorse Trump.

Their circumstances, though, are different than Young’s.

Romney already has chosen not to run for re-election, and he has a net worth of more than $500 million, so he has little to fear from Trump at this point. Even if the former president fumes and rages in his direction, Romney can spend many pleasant hours in political retirement counting his money.

Murkowski also operates from a somewhat privileged and protected position. The Senate seat she occupies is almost a family franchise—her father held it before she did—and her network of support in Alaska is both deep and wide. She has beaten back challenges before and doubtless is prepared to do so again.

Young possesses neither a huge personal fortune nor a powerful political legacy.

More important, he represents a state where Trump-style Republicanism is in the ascendancy.

Last year, MAGA forces helped chase former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels—the most gifted Republican politician and conservative thinker of his generation—from a possible U.S. Senate race in favor of a nonentity slavish in his devotion to Trump, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana. And MAGA devotees in the Indiana General Assembly have made life difficult at best and miserable at worst for Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb during his second term.

Trump acolytes punished Daniels and Holcomb for the same perceived sin—not just thinking for themselves but thinking … period.

I do not know Todd Young well, but I’ve always respected him, even though we disagree on fundamental questions.

That’s because he’s always struck me as a thoughtful guy, one who gives careful consideration to the implications of his stances and actions.

A couple of years ago, when I sat down with him for an interview, I noted that one of his policy initiatives represented a slight break from Ronald-Reagan-style conservatism.

Young chuckled and said his younger self likely would have been troubled by his deviation from the thought of F.A. Hayek—the political philosopher and economist whose work provided much of the intellectual inspiration for the conservative movement in the last half of the 20th century—but experience had taught him the value of openness to new ideas.

In referring to Hayek, Young, slyly, was accomplishing two things.

The first was telling me that he was a conservative leader who preferred reading books to banning them.

The second was demonstrating that he was a man determined to think for himself.

In another, less vexed age, these would be considered admirable qualities.

These days, though, they are likely to bring Todd Young a fair amount of trouble.

That’s to be expected.

Doing the right thing often is a lonely business.


John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.

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