Chris Douglas

The Past and Future of the Republican Party in Central Indiana

Filed By Chris Douglas | December 22, 2006 4:18 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Keith Bulen

People who know me well often ask how I can be Republican. Though the answer can be complex, one fundamental answer for me personally is that my parents were (and are) Republican, and I wanted to be just like them. I still do; my parents are wonderful people... educated, compassionate, good-humored, honest, hard-working, even-tempered, and sympathetic to all walks of humanity.

But why were my parents Republican? I didn't understand the answer to that question until very recently, and the answer relates to something that happened in Indianapolis in the 1966. I now understand it fully.

In my opinion, if you live in Central Indiana and are disgusted with many aspects of the Republican Party, but you struggle to call yourself a Democrat, you need to learn what happened in 1966, and that the same in Indianapolis will inevitably now recur. The result will excite; indeed, I think among young Republicans there is a growing air not of defeat, but of anticipation. I believe that great talent will emerge in the Republican Party here.... as it did under similar circumstances once before... business-oriented, energetic, compassionate, and forward-looking.

Indianapolis in 1965

In 1965, Indianapolis was a backward town, lacking any sky-scrapers or any improvements. The city was in the hands of two political machines, each stagnant in its power. The Democrats controlled the Mayor's office, but the Republicans had their own power structure, fueled by a patronage system that ensured that the Marion County Chairman, a racist named Dale Brown, controlled all things Republican. With entrenched power structures asleep at the switch, talented people who had their own powerful visions of what Indianapolis could become were frustrated. There was no way to make anything happen. Or so it seemed.

The Republican Action Committee, Keith Bulen, and "the Greatest Generation" of Indianapolis Republicans

But there was formed an insurgent group who called themselves the Republican Action Committee. Borrowing heavily on the strengths of young, educated professionals and business people, the RAC placed an effort under the leadership of a man named Keith Bulen, well known now to older Republicans and past Republicans in Indianapolis. Bulen recruited like-minded people to get active in assuming precinct committee positions. In one fell swoop, the Republican Party power structure in Indianapolis, racist and corrupt, fell to a new generation with views that were 180 degrees from their predecessors. It was this group that recruited Dick Lugar to run for mayor, and who included or produced the successful leadership of people like Buert SerVass, Mayor Bill Hudnut, and Lt. Governor John Mutz. These leaders and their peers consolidated city and surrounding governments and set the stage for the revitalization of Indianapolis. They generally worked effectively across party lines and sought diversity in their ranks. (And working closely with Richard Lugar was a young Mitch Daniels.)

(It is no wonder that SerVass supported the HRO, and that it was John Mutz who hosted a recent panel discussion on civil marriage equality at St. Luke's Methodist.)

As it happens, my parents and their circle of friends were among those young professionals, all from Indianapolis and its environs, who saw only in that group the possibility of serious change in Indianapolis, and contributed through precinct committee work. Consequently, through most of my life I have associated with Republicans in Indianapolis a decency and a vision with which I am very much at home. As represented by them, the Republican Party was not defined by intolerance and resistance to change, for it was intolerance and resistance to change that they so soundly defeated.

The Republican Party In Indianapolis

With this history in mind, it is with considerable excitement that I survey the landscape in Indianapolis. The Republican Party for a long time allowed it reins to slip into the hands of the very kind of conservatism it had once rejected, repelling and reversing the Party's great legacies. But defeat after defeat has been handed it recently, as those candidates who embrace right-wing conservatism so tightly have been rejected by the electorate in Indianapolis... and on a state-wide basis for state-wide offices.

It is clear to me now that a young generation of Republicans has become fed up with the agenda of intolerance that the Republican Party has pursued against gays, just as two generations previous to them were fed up with the Party's intolerance of blacks. And this younger generation is ever more organized. Whether they take the reins of power now or soon, or after some defeat of some insistent reactionary politician still breathing, I believe their success in achieving dominant stature in Central Indiana is inevitable.

Call to Action

Whether you are Republican or Democrat, it is a forward looking Republican Party that we need in Indiana. If you are not a Democrat, then I urge you to contact First Republicans ([email protected]) immediately to discuss how you can help. The future is bright.

(See also our Principles at First Republican Forum.)

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And those wonderful young Republicans finagled the partial restructuring of Indianapolis and Marion County government resulting in almost total domination of elective offices called UniGov. This lasted almost 30 years. Strangely enough, in a county 1/4th Black, those wonderful Republicans never once found an African-American to run for one of those guaranteed job slots in City Hall. Never! There was always a token Black Republican at-large on the CityCounty Council who then got bumped when he became too vocal. It took Democrat Frank Anderson to break the GOP-enforced color-barrier locally in 2002. This year, Democrat Auditor-elect Billie Breaux is the first Black woman ever to be elected to a county office. The GOP first ran a Black woman for County Office just this year.But that wonderful generation of Republicans was so progressive and unprejudiced, weren't they?

We also saw that marvelous new GOP machine at work during the HRO: 2 Republicans out of 14 supported us. But be proud - 2 out of 14 from reform Republicans for basic civil rights aint too bad, is it now?

For what it's worth: I always find Chris Douglas to be one of the few Republicans sane enough to be worth listening to ...

Chris Douglas | December 22, 2006 11:20 PM

Thank you for your comments, Wilson... er... I think.

The Republican Party of Marion County led by Bulen and friends I think was racially progressive in philosophy, responsible for instance in objecting successfully to the exclusion of blacks from membership in the Columbia Club. As today, the question perhaps became centered on who would want to become a member of an institution that had been so obviously reluctant to accept them. (I do observe that I have never detected in my parents or their friends racist attitudes, let alone explicit expressions of such attitudes. To the contrary. )

But there is no question that a subsequent generation absconded with leadership and took the party in a more conservative direction. Now that conservatism is expressed in an intolerance of gays, but it is that intolerance that I think is doomed in Marion County with the coming generation of young Republicans.

In that 1960's, of course, there was a domination of the Democratic Party in the South by racists, (which racists regrettably subsequently seemed to have found a home in the Republican party.) I recently heard John Mutz speak of cooperation in that era of moderates across party and racial lines, (mentioning cooperation with Bill Crawford among others.) I have come to think highly of John Mutz, and take him at his word on that matter. I observe among the young Republicans I mention the inclusion of a number of African Americans whose success would also constitute an advancement of toleration for the glbt community.

I don't think the Party today is racist, the evidence mainly being that the conservatives are finding common cause with the conservative church-based component of the black community on the topic of civil rights and gays. The new outlet of conservatism isn't anti-black, but it's anti-gay and, I suppose, pro church state. (Of course, while not being racist, the Party can easily pursue policies that are racist in impact, if not in intent.)

Nice post, Chris. Thought-provoking, even. But misguided.

Republicans in the mid-60s, like Wilson said, made absolutely sure they controlled things in this county. They even broke up neighborhoods with the ridiculous I-65 route through downtown. Democratic neighborhoods. Artfully done, and with forethought.

Lugar became mayor after he served on the IPS Board. Which presided over one of the most misguided attempts at soft racism in the city's history.

Your party today is a collection of far-right wingnuts and councillors who can't find their own homes without a road map. That's the public face, at least, which we see thorugh the Council. And a clerk who couldn't appropriately assemble a two-car parade. And a prosecutor who lies to Council committees when he shouldn't.

Yeah, we've got a nutso coroner and a few whacked-out Councillors. But one thing we have, for which I'm eternally grateful, is a mayor who sees the future and is willing to march toward it.

He's helped solve the combined sewer overflow problem, which Republicans ignored for 25 years.

He's trying to solve the jail problem, which a conservative Republican federal judge ruled, over a decade ago, was horribly inadequate.

And finally, even when he's wrogn, which is too often for my taste, he has the good sense to stand up and use his bully pulpit to pass an HRO ordinance we badly needed.

Game, set, match.

There's still room for you over here, Chris. Alas, your party appears to care little about your views. They should, because we're stronger with a vital two-party system.

But they don't.

Rick, the Democrats only have a few whacked-out councilors? and only a nutso coroner? As I have gotten more involved, I have been surprised at the number of elected officials in both parties that I would not trust balancing my checkbook or house sitting my home and yet we elect them to do that with our city and state.

It is also easy for me to assign "stupidity", "whacko", "power hungry", and "self serving" motivations to elected officials of the opposite party and "principled", "civic minded", "cares for the people", and "forward thinking" to the elected officials of my party. But in reality this ignores how difficult it is for anyone to bring about change and improvement to the governmental bureaucracy.

I have also been surprised at the number of people in both parties that are willing to step forward, give of their time and energy, and ignore the "nay-saying", "truth twisting", and "name calling" of politics in an attempt to bring about change and improvement.

Neither party seems to really care about your and my views, as they do seem about getting power. But it does seem like your, my, and Chris' responsibility is to work within our parties to bring about change and to support those people in the party that do care about our views.

To me, Chris' post was not praising the Republican party but informing us about how those Republicans that do support us and about those Republicans that are more moderate and progressive, how they are getting involved and laying the ground work in order to bring about change.

Chris Douglas | December 23, 2006 5:13 PM

Thank you for your comments, Rick. If I'm not mistaken (and I may be), while Lugar was on the school board, the school board's president was Mark Gray, who, if I'm not mistaken, was a Democrat. Gray is still living and is an impressive individual, having served as part of the prosecution at the Nurembug war trials. His family became a second family to my significant other, and so I have come to know him somewhat. I don't think Gray was (or is) racist. To the contrary. He strikes me as progressive in his outlook. Gray, incidentally, opposed Lugar's run for president of the school board because (or so he say) he didn't want the school board to be merely a launch pad for political careers.

My impression is that the Republicans who achieved office as a result of the actions in 1966 were more progressive in outlook than both the entrenched Democratic and Republican machines that were overthrown. Certainly Hudnut was highly progressive.

To remind, Hudnut issued a proclamation for a gay pride festival when he was mayor, while Bayh failed to renew a written nondiscrimination policy that Orr had in place covering sexual orientation. (I understand both of these points by way of Kathy Sarris, who came from Chicago and was recruited by Orr to work with migrant farm workers.) I know you think highly of Bayh, Rick, so I'll leave it to you to correct the correct the record if it is in error.

Compared to Hudnut(and to the liberal Republicans of that day), the Democratic Party today appears relatively conservative. That is a reflection of how far to the right the entire political spectrum has swung.

Kudos to Hudnut for valiantly issuing a Proclamation about a Gay Pride Event! Now what about attendance? There has been only one elected Republican to attend and speak at a Gay Pride Parade ever :: Scott Keller. All the other politicos are all Democrats, notably Congresswoman Julia Carson (none of her challengers have ever attended Gay Pride).

I do not think that most Republicans are active and crude bigots against either Blacks or gays. The problem is just that issues important to the Black or gay communties are not considered important to most Republicans and their leadership. The issues get ignored or brushed aside. It's not deliberately or consciously evil or malign. Getting African-Americans into the Columbia Club was nice but that police shooting of a Black man double-parking outside the Columbia Club seared the inner-city. Controlling out-of-control cops simply had not been a priority...

By the way, Mom and Dad Douglas seem to have done a good job raising the their kid ...

Wilson, there might not have been Republican elected officials attending the Pride events this year (especially since none of them outside of Brizzi were running for re-election) but there were at least two Republican candidates that were on the ballowt with some presence at the event.

And i love how Democrats like to pretend that they are really doing any more for their black supporters than Republicans do. There are contituencies in both parties that get ignored because they are taken for granted and their issues hurt the parties with swing voters. For Republicans, its the moderates and for Democrats it's blacks and the glbt community.

Would "The Moderate" care to share with us some more details on exactly which 2 Republican candidates had some presence at Gay Pride? What exactly was the nature of this "some presence"? Democrat elected officials honor Gay Pride even when not running for office such as Jackie Nytes, Joann Sanders, Julia Carson, etc. I repeat: NO Republican elected official except for Councilor Scott Keller has ever spoken (or even visited) at Gay Pride.

As for the silly charge that Democrats take LGBT voters for granted: it was the Democrats that got the HRO through the Council over the fierce objections of the Republican caucus. Only Democrats in our Legislature supported LGBT bills. The Black community is not stupid or ignorant: it votes overwhelmingly and consistently for the political party that best represents its interests: the Democrats.

I know that Donna Edgar, candidate for Clerk, attended the Pride events as well as campaign staff for Carl Brizzi. Brizzi himself attended the Black Pride event and spoke from the stage. Where was Peterson doing during either of these events?

Also, I'm really tickled that you think the HRO passed because of Democrats. If all the Democrats would have voted for the HRO the first time, it wouldn't have taken a second vote.

Nice try on your comments designed to make it sound as though i was calling the black community ignorant or stupid but clearly that was not what was said. I think that the black community is taken for granted by Democrats and i think most strategists would agree.

Well, moderate, I think that using your red herring logic, the same conclusion could be made about the Pubs - if they'd voted for it the first time it wouldn't have taken a second vote. That shoe fits both feet...

I can only speak from my own experience regarding the HRO and the part that I played. I can tell you that only three Republican city-county councilors would speak to me. All the democrats would - even if they wouldn't vote the way I wanted them too. The Republicans, however, wouldn't even speak for the most part.

Councilors Cain, Schneider and Bradford were openly hostile - from name calling to blatantly homophobic comments. Bradford, as I remember, stormed off the dais after the HRO passed since it "perverted justice." Councilor Lynn McWhirter met with me, my daughter, and a lesbian couple from her district. She flat out agreed that the HRO needed to pass and that she was sympathetic to the cause. She also said that Republican leadership had told her that she had to vote "No" or she wouldn't be around to elect next time...

So let's check the status of Republican councilors who DID vote for the HRO... Councilor Langsford was shipped off to Afghanistan to fight the war on terror. Republican leadership blocked his choice of his wife to replace him (which is his right to do supposedly). When they finally allowed the soldier's wife to take her seat, it was with the direction that she not be allowed to run for the seat next election. Why? They're both too moderate. Patriots all, eh? And Councilor Keller gets about as much support from the party as a missionary in a cannibal village...

One telling aspect of the HRO effort was which party switched votes. One republican did. The rest were all democrats. One party overwhelming ended up supporting the cause I was lobbying for. Logic tells me that I'd be better off supporting those who support me.

As for the Democratic Party just taking the Black vote for granted: it should be observed our Congresswoman is Democratic and Black, both Democratic State Senators from Indianapolis are Black, the majority of Democratic State Representatives from Marion County are Black, the majority of Democrats elected to County Offices are Black, the majority of Democrats on the City Council are Black, the overwhelming majority of Democrats in Township Offices are Black. Only in Judgeships the majority of Democrats are Caucasian. I soon expect "Moderates" to start complaining that the Democrats just take the Caucasian vote for granted in Indianapolis!

The 12/28 1:27pm anonymous comment has been deleted.

"NSF" let me address you clearly and directly. We don't do that around here. Trash talking and insults and insinuations by anonymous commentors is not part of our community. If you want to do that, go to some of the local political blogs and sling away.

If it happens again, you'll be banned. Play nice.