Last week, former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO) told ThinkProgress that his party was becoming “increasingly inconsequential” and “intolerant” following the defeat of veteran Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN). Now, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has also taken aim at his party for its ideological extremism.
Hagel — who served two terms in the Senate, between 1997 and 2009 — told Foreign Policy magazine on Friday that the Republican Party “is in the hands of the right, I would say the extreme right, more than ever before.” He observed:
Reagan wouldn’t identify with this party. There’s a streak of intolerance in the Republican Party today that scares people. Intolerance is a very dangerous thing in a society because it always leads to a tragic ending. Ronald Reagan was never driven by ideology. He was a conservative but he was a practical conservative. He wanted limited government but he used government and he used it many times. And he would work with the other party. …
Now the Republican Party is in the hands of the right, I would say the extreme right, more than ever before. You’ve got a Republican Party that is having difficulty facing up to the fact that if you look at what happened during the first 8 years of the century, it was under Republican direction. …
The Republican Party is dealing with this schizophrenia. It was the Republican leadership that got us into this mess. If Nixon or Eisenhower were alive today, they would be run out of the party.
Hagel hopes the pendulum will eventually swing back to moderation for the GOP, but warned that it is unlikely to happen in this election, noting that “what latitude [Mitt] Romney has to shape the party as we go into the election is somewhat limited because of the primary he’s had to run.”
It again bears mentioning that like Lugar and Danforth, Hagel was himself a solid conservative in the Senate earning a lifetime 85 percent rating with the American Conservative Union. The fact that even solid conservatives like these men — or Reagan — are not conservative enough to fit in the modern Republican Party is an indication of just how far right the GOP has drifted.