EXCLUSIVE: Former Sen. Danforth (R) Says GOP Becoming ‘Increasingly Inconsequential,’ ‘Intolerant’

Former Ambassador to the UN and U.S. Sen. John Danforth (R-MO)

In 2010, former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO) told the New York Times that “If Dick Lugar, having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.” Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest and President George W. Bush’s Ambassador to the United Nations, served with Lugar in the Senate from 1977 to 1995.

In light of yesterday’s defeat for Lugar, denied the Republican nomination for his Indiana Senate seat by a 60 percent to 40 percent landslide, ThinkProgress contacted to Senator Danforth to ask him his reaction to the news:

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.

Now that the Republican Party that has cast out Lugar, who he noted is not “some kind of liberal” but a “very conservative person,” Danforth warned, “You’re gonna be left with a party that is very pure and increasingly inconsequential. And a political system that is increasingly unable to get off the dime.”