No moderates need apply

NO MODERATES NEED APPLY…. Vice President Biden sat down with Rachel Maddow yesterday, and the two covered quite a bit of ground, but the interview began with a discussion about the GOP Senate primary for Biden’s old seat in Delaware.

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Rachel asked how he explains what transpired on Tuesday. “It’s hard to explain,” Biden conceded. After noting the low turnout, the V.P. noted the bigger picture: “[T]he truth is, it’s real tough for the Republican Party. It’s kind of hung on a shingle: ‘No moderates need apply.'”

Just so we’re clear, no one disagrees with this, right? In other words, if there’s one thing that reasonable political observers of every stripe should be able to agree on, it’s that the Republican Party is now, through and through, a far-right entity that actively and deliberately rejects moderate candidates.

There was a point earlier in the summer at which the media seemed anxious to characterize this as a bipartisan problem — the party bases were in control, and only extremists, purists, and ideologues could win primaries. The Washington Post editorial board, in one especially odd piece, lamented the “ideological purification of both parties.”

Have we reached the moment at which this need not be considered a “bipartisan” issue?

There’s been a remarkable purge in the GOP this year, unlike anything we’ve seen in quite a while. Mike Castle’s defeat in Delaware was stunning and borderline ridiculous, but it was only the cherry on top of a disturbing sundae.

How long is the list of purge victims now, anyway? Castle, Specter, Crist, Bennett, Inglis, Murkowski, Scozzafava … these were Republicans in good standing, poised to do very well with a broad swath of voters, right up until the party’s rank-and-file decided they were insufficiently right-wing.

I suspect most voters find it difficult enough to keep up on political developments in their area, and don’t keep an eye on larger trends outside their own state, so much of the country probably has no idea that Republicans have driven so many moderates away. If the public isn’t aware of the purge, the party probably won’t suffer electoral consequences.

But just as a factual matter, when Biden says the GOP has declared “no moderates need apply,” I like to think anyone paying attention to national events would see this as obviously true.

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Steve Benen

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.