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).