LEARNING THE WRONG LESSONS…. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, arguably the Senate’s least conservative Republican, has an op-ed in the New York Times today, insisting that the GOP is making a terrible mistake by “fold[ing] our philosophical tent into an umbrella under which only a select few are worthy to stand.” Noting the Republicans’ shift to the right, Snowe added, “There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party.”

Some of Snowe’s fellow Republicans have come to a very different conclusion. Last night, for example, Fox News’ Sean Hannity lamented, “I think if anything, the Republican Party is moved to the left in recent years.”

Last week, Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina raised a similar concern. “I feel that Republicans are starting to get the message of the last two elections — that the American people don’t want a lukewarm agenda,” DeMint said. “They don’t want a liberal light agenda.”

This is a surprisingly common sentiment in conservative circles. They’re absolutely convinced that the only reason Republican numbers have fallen off in recent years is that the GOP hasn’t been nearly conservative enough. It’s why many were delighted yesterday by Arlen Specter’s announcement — the departure of moderates makes it easier for the Republican Party to coalesce around a common conservative agenda which, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, they think Americans are anxious to embrace.

If Snowe really wants to encourage her party to recognize the mess it’s in, she may have to follow Specter’s lead.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.