Republicans and the ‘beyond redemption’ threshold

REPUBLICANS AND THE ‘BEYOND REDEMPTION’ THRESHOLD…. A couple of months ago, former senator and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Danforth (R) expressed some concern about the direction of his party.

“If Dick Lugar,” Danforth said, “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.”

Keep that quote in mind today.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock will launch his primary challenge to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) on Tuesday with the support of a majority of both the state’s 92 Republican county chairmen and its state party executive committee, he told the Fix in a recent interview.

“I feel bad that he’s going to be humiliated by this list,” Mourdock said. […]

“The headline isn’t going to be, ‘Tea party candidate to take on Dick Lugar;’ it’s going to be, ‘GOP grassroots dumps Lugar,'” Mourdock said. “There is tremendous unrest and tremendous dissatisfaction, and that’s what got me in this race.”

Danforth said it would be awful if Lugar faced a credible primary opponent at all. As of today, Lugar not only has a challenger, but has also been abandoned by much of the GOP establishment in his own state.

Is it safe to conclude, then, that the Republican Party has gone so far overboard that it’s beyond redemption?

Postscript: Yesterday, Jonathan Bernstein pondered whether Lugar would be better off simply switching parties now and running as a Democrat, in large part because Lugar’s version of the Republican Party “is close to extinct.”

I agree that there’s no meaningful place in the contemporary GOP for a thoughtful, conservative statesman, but I find it very hard to believe Lugar would even consider a party switch. His voting record is far to the right of the Democratic mainstream, and despite Lugar’s sanity/credibility on national security issues, the senator has very little in common with the larger Democratic agenda.

By the standards of the Clinton and Bush eras, Lugar is what one might call a “conservative Republican.” The party has gotten hysterically right-wing in recent years, but (a) that’s not Lugar’s fault; and (b) it doesn’t point to any interest in joining the other party.