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May 31 2013

Republican Elders Speaking Out

As the Republican party struggles to handle the well-documented demographic and ideological problems that are making their electoral lives difficult, several elder statesmen (and women) of the GOP are starting to speak out. I’m sure you saw Bob Dole’s comments last week about how neither he nor Ronald Reagan would be welcome in today’s party.

WALLACE: What do you think of your party, the Republicans today?

DOLE: I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says “closed for repairs” until New Year’s Day next year — and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.

WALLACE: You describe the GOP of your generation as Eisenhower Republicans, moderate Republicans. Could people like you, even Ronald Reagan — could you make it in today’s Republican Party.

DOLE: I doubt it. Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly Nixon couldn’t have made it, cause he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it.

Now another former senator, Olympia Snowe, has agreed with Dole:

SNOWE: Well, I certainly do agree with the former Majority Leader Bob Dole with whom I worked with when I first entered the Senate and who was a consensus builder and understood what was essential and what was important for the Republican Party and what was important for America. And that unfortunately has been lost today, on Capitol Hill. And yes, Republicans do bear responsible as do the Democrats. You have to work together. And obviously, the Republican Party is undergoing some significant and serious changes and they’re going to have to rethink their approach as a political party, and how they’re going to regroup and become a governing majority party that appeals to a broader group of Americans than they do today.

And last year former Sen. John Danforth argued that there is a real problem with the way the Tea Partiers are trying to purge the party of all moderate figures:

THINKPROGRESS: What do you think is happening here?

DANFORTH: An effort by some, and apparently a large number, 60% in Indiana, to purge the Republican Party and to create something that’s ideologically pure and intolerant of anybody who does not agree with them — not just on general principles, but right across the board.

THINKPROGRESS: Do you stand by your view that GOP is beyond hope?

DANFORTH: If this trend succeeds, yeah. What they will be left with, if indeed they want to purge the party of all but people who have a particular ideological slant… it’s not a way to win elections, it’s not political sustainable. It might make them feel good for a time but doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked. It didn’t work in Nevada or in Delaware in last election. They won nominations but couldn’t win elections. I don’t know how you win elections without getting 51% of the vote. I don’t see how you’re gonna get 51% of the vote if you make it clear that people in your own party, who don’t absolutely agree with everything you want to do, aren’t wanted.

The Democrats should be thrilled by what’s going on, of course. The further the GOP goes to the right, the more they scare away the all-important independent voters who are necessary to win national elections. But it also scares away moderate Republican voters. Just the other day, my brother said to me, “I tend to vote Republican and I always have, but the Republican party today has absolutely lost its mind.” My dad, a lifelong Republican, has said the exact same thing (he was absolutely embarrassed at the idea that George W. Bush was our president).

29 comments

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  1. 1
    tynk

    my father spent a week at my uncle’s place in Washington state. He made a point to tell me that the entire time he was there, he did not hear or see a single conservative radio show or even 5 minutes of fox news. My Uncle always has that stuff on. At least he did…

  2. 2
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    This was mentioned on‘Planet America’ earlier tonight. (Aussie time.)

    Might be a transcript somewhere if folks can find it and are interested.

  3. 3
    Pyra

    I’m buried in tea party land. I hope there are good changes in the party for everyone else, because I’m not seeing them here. Just ideological fear-mongering. Just after the election I heard OMG, Obama created a tax… then silence when things were going well… then silence about the NDAA, or being grateful for Gitmo… The worst part is people shove me in the Other category – which is only Democrat, even though I’m ashamed of a lot of the civil liberty issues really shock me. I feel quite powerless to make a dent in the minds of people who think giving people text messages on lifeline phones is bringing our nation to a grinding halt… And of course, being of parchment skin color with two sons (therefore thought to be straight), there is no dog whistling going on. It’s all blatant bigotry… I hope these people do paint themselves into a corner, but I can’t see it, here.

  4. 4
    reasonbe

    I think, however, it worked in 1930′s Germany and in other such illustrious nations.

  5. 5
    Trebuchet

    Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan? Just RINO’s, of course, same as Dole and Snow.

  6. 6
    trucreep

    I wonder if this has something to do with the GOP’s relationship with the religious far right – it seems like they’ve used that demographic as a voting bloc and nothing more. However that’s warped their primaries and local elections, and as a result you saw like in 2010 a huge swarm of them getting into the national elections.

    Now you have those members in Congress slowly falling off. It’ll be interesting to see what that demographic does in the coming years. You can see that they’re slowly realizing that they are more or less “pawns” in the larger strategy of the GOP (Hence the term RINO).

  7. 7
    sylwyn

    Reminds me of when I was an episcopal church goer. As I recall, the general view was that if Jesus were to walk into a conservative evangelical church and express himself, he’d be tossed out on his ear.

  8. 8
    baal

    While the Democrats are generally to the left of the Republicans, that’s a bit like saying there are places on the earth cooler than the heart of a volcanoe*.

    *extra e is needed, I was taught to spell by Dan Quayle. Pity me.

  9. 9
    TGAP Dad

    I myself am in independent most often voting with democrats. As someone of this persuasion, I am decidedly NOT thrilled by the radicalization of the Republican Party. Some of these people are going to get elected, purely on party affiliation, and it does the country harm when these people turn out to be nuts.

  10. 10
    voidhawk

    I’m waiting until the Republicans elect an Arnie Vinnick-esque candidate so the insane asylum can move slowly back to the centre ground and be a competant opposition or a tolerable government.

    I don’t hold my breath.

  11. 11
    D. C. Sessions

    There’s a lot of hyperbole going on here. The extremists aren’t trying to purge the Party of everyone who doesn’t agree with them. They aren’t even necessarily trying to purge the officeholders.

    They’re just purging the officeholders of those who don’t do as they’re told.

    Any officeholder who reliably toes the Party line (and, obviously, the Party line is set by the extremists) is welcome to stay. Anyone who is willing to support the extremists is welcome as a member in the Party, too.

    So there’s no “purge” going on, except to get RINOs out of office.

  12. 12
    jaybee

    baal @ 8:

    I’m with you. Not only has the republican party shifted right, the supreme court has shifted right over the past 40 years, and the democratic party has shifted to the right too. Except for a few issues, like abortion, Obama could have easily been a republican 30 years ago.

    And yet the conservatives think fox news is centrist, the supreme court tilts to the left, and Obama is a socialist or communist (take your pick). How can there be such a disconnect?

  13. 13
    eric

    I don’t know how you win elections without getting 51% of the vote.

    Easy – gerrymandering.

    But I tend to agree with what he says about the tea party. Even gerrymandering has its limits; if the GOP purges itself of a significant chunk of members, they won’t be able to give themselves even a majority of districts. The Senate situation is even worse; moving to a smaller, more ideologically purer party will basically concede Senate races to the (now) larger Democratic party.

  14. 14
    Michael Heath

    jaybee writes:

    Except for a few issues, like abortion, Obama could have easily been a republican 30 years ago.

    That was 1983. In 1983 one could still be a Republican and support abortion rights. Probably the most famous abortion rights supporter in my home state of Michigan at that time was Helen Milliken. She was wife to the then recently retired Governor William Milliken. She wasn’t a typical first lady, she was a public activist and a damn fine one. He was a Republican and also generally pro-abortion rights; like supporting state funding for abortions: http://goo.gl/l6svZ . Not even Barack Obama advocates to that degree. Both Millikens have always been known as leading environmentalists and social liberals; they’re probably the primary reason I became a Republican when I became of age to vote, them along with Gerald and Betty Ford.

    I’d argue that not only could Barack Obama easily been a Republican thirty years ago, he would have had some company to the left of him, though that group was quickly dying out and is now dead, something that started really accelerating in the late-1970s.

    It’s important to note that there was a time where conservatives were not default Republicans. Though the party had long contained conservatives, they just didn’t dominate the party until Ronald Reagan’s national ascendency.

  15. 15
    jufulu

    Re-iterating whats been said in earlier posts, the Democrats have become the Republic Party. Sure, there are some progressives, but the general trend of the Party is moving to the right. By providing somewhat more conservative candidates, the Democrats are slurping up disaffected Republicans. I think of it as osmosis, voters moving across the gradient from high concentrations of crazy to lower the densities of pandering.

  16. 16
    D. C. Sessions

    The Senate situation is even worse; moving to a smaller, more ideologically purer party will basically concede Senate races to the (now) larger Democratic party.

    That’s why they’re moving to elect Senators by district: vote in Congressional districts, elect the Senator by whoever gets a plurality of districts.

  17. 17
    d.c.wilson

    DOLE: I doubt it. Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly Nixon couldn’t have made it, cause he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it.

    Dole hit on it right here. The modern GOP likes ideology, not ideas. Ideas lead to policies being adopted. They’d rather tear down rather than build. The only republican today who has ideas is Gingrich and 99% of his ideas are truly awful.

  18. 18
    typecaster

    The main thing I notice is that all of the Republicans making these sorts of statements are all out of office, and no longer in a position to affect anything going on in the GOP itself. It comes across less as honest, helpful advice than has-been get-off-my-lawnism, and I can’t see any currently active and influential Republican paying any attention to it. From my perspective, that’s not a completely bad thing, since I want these loons to self-destruct. But I have no confidence that they can do that without a LOT of collateral damage on the way down.

  19. 19
    naturalcynic

    … and I can’t see any currently active and influential Republican paying any attention to it.

    They’re all running scared.
    It should be remembered that Reagan was the one who formalized the deal with the right-wing Christians, but he was way too much of a good ol’ boy with Tip for today’s crazies.

  20. 20
    Pierce R. Butler

    … my brother said to me, “I tend to vote Republican and I always have…

    From his comments here, I used to have some real respect for your brother, but that just erased most of it. :-(

  21. 21
    matty1

    Reminds me of when I was an episcopal church goer. As I recall, the general view was that if Jesus were to walk into a conservative evangelical church and express himself, he’d be tossed out on his ear.

    My granddad, who was a Christian socialist for what it’s worth, had a story about Jesus turning up outside a racist Church and seeing a black woman sat on the curb crying. “What’s wrong?” says Jesus
    “They won’t let me in”
    “I know how you feel they’ve been keeping me out ever since they started”

  22. 22
    Big Boppa

    Yes, Bob Dole and Olympia Snowe try to inject a drop of sanity into the ashtry of the republican clown car and it’s big news for a day or so. Then someone opens the crypt and exhumes the corpse of Phyllis Sclafley and they’re right back to square one.

    http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/05/30/18622471-phyllis-schlafly-urges-gop-to-focus-on-white-voters?lite

  23. 23
    Eoin

    It would be easy (and comfortable) to be smug and take pleasure from the fact that the Republicans seem hell-bent on rendering themselves unelectable by enacting purge, after purge, of moderates and falling back, solely, on a culture-war, obstructionist, hyper-religious rump but in doing so they are not only damaging their own party they are damaging all of America; in short, in order to have a functioning democratically-elected government there needs to be a capable, intelligent, viable opposition to challenge them on their policies, to refine legislation, to prevent overreach and to ensure that the voices of those who dissent from the mainstream political orthodoxies of the day are heard.

    If the GOP implodes they will, subsequently, be unable to carry out this vital role and will be failing NOT only their own supporters but ALL American citizens (this, it should be noted, should also concern those citizens of other nations around the world who regard America as their friend and wish her to succeed.

    As a matter of interest; I would be fascinated to know if the U.S. contributors here feel that the lack of a prominent third political party in America (unusual in most pluralistic democratic nations) has been a boon or a disadvantage to their country?

  24. 24
    D. C. Sessions

    As a matter of interest; I would be fascinated to know if the U.S. contributors here feel that the lack of a prominent third political party in America (unusual in most pluralistic democratic nations) has been a boon or a disadvantage to their country?

    It’s not so much that we lack viable third parties, it’s that the system that prevents them also locks up the power structure in other ways.

  25. 25
    Eoin

    @D.C. Sessions: “It’s not so much that we lack viable third parties, it’s that the system that prevents them also locks up the power structure in other ways.”

    The reason I ask is that the existence of a prominent third party in many jurisdictions raises the possibility of coalition government which, by necessity, requires compromise and which, I would argue, erodes to an extent the vitriol and tribalism of ‘us-versus-them’ politics which is the root, it would seem of much of the dysfunction innate in much of American political culture. Not that coalition governance is without difficulty, however.

  26. 26
    D. C. Sessions

    I could argue that parliamentary systems make coalition governments possible and the possiblity of coalition governments makes third parties viable.

    In the USA, with everything first-past-the-post and winner-take-all (and no need to choose a Chief Executive) there’s not really any incentive to form a coalition — everyone can go ahead and argue their own way in the Legislature.

  27. 27
    tommykey

    As someone of this persuasion, I am decidedly NOT thrilled by the radicalization of the Republican Party. Some of these people are going to get elected, purely on party affiliation, and it does the country harm when these people turn out to be nuts.

    My thoughts exactly.

  28. 28
    ethanol

    My fantasy is that the republic party will completely go up in flames, and as the democratic party lunges right to snatch up those voters and secure republican defeat, room for a new party will open up on the left. But my fear (and I suspect this is more likely) is that if the economy tanks again, the blind reactionary tendencies of our democracy will swing power back into the hands of a party that will make GW look like Jimmy Carter.

  29. 29
    Matrim

    I don’t know how you win elections without getting 51% of the vote.

    Via the red-crested gerrymander, of course. Granted, you still need >50% of the district, but that’s not hard to do in most places.

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