Growing Number Of Republicans Fear Ultra-Partisan Extremism In Current GOP

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL)

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL)

Jeb Bush is a member of one of the most prominent families in the 158-year-history of the Republican Party. His grandfather was Sen. Prescott Bush (R-CT), his father and brother both served as President of the United States, and he himself was twice elected governor of Florida.

And today, he became the latest in a lengthy parade of former GOP officeholders to express significant discomfort with the current purge by far-right wing Republicans of any moderates or even bipartisan-minded conservatives in their party. Bush told reports and editors that:

Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad [former President George H.W. Bush] — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground.

Bush noted he expects the current GOP dominance by those hyper-partisan Republicans who are pushing out voices for bipartisanship to be “temporary.”

Over his three-terms as Congressman and three-terms as Senator from Maine, Republican William Cohen earned such bipartisan respect that upon his retirement from the Senate, Democratic President Bill Clinton appointed him Secretary of Defense. Senator John Warner (R-VA) said in 2000 that “Bill Cohen earned his place in history, alongside the best, and the men and women in uniform render a respectful ‘hand salute.'”

Like Bush, former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO), former Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD), and former Rep. Claudine Schneider (R-RI) told ThinkProgress that the modern Republican Party is no longer a place for centrists.

Cohen observed:

It’s rather obvious that the [Republican] Party has moved dramatically to the right. There no longer is a center that can provide the basis for reaching a consensus on the central issues confronting our country. The center has been hollowed out…

It’s argued that the public prefers a check and balance government, and there is truth to be found in limiting the power of any one branch of government. But today, everyone is in check and no one is in charge. Something has to change or we will be looking at four more years of political stalemate and paralysis.

Former Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) told ThinkProgress that he thinks defeats at the polls will eventually force the Republican Party to become more inclusive of moderates:

When the tent of a political party grows too small and it is repeatedly defeated at the ballot box over several election cycles and for various offices, internal forces are then unleashed to re-enlarge the tent to a size sufficient to assure victory. I’ve lived long enough to observe the repetition of these cycles and trends in both parties, so I’m somewhat philosophical about what is happening at present to my party.

But, as Cohen notes, that return to inclusion may be a long way off. “In the short term, I don’t see moderates being elected,” he observed. “Long term? Only the Shadow knows.”