Gen. Colin Powell's remark that the Republican party, particularly its far right wing, has masked a "dark vein of intolerance" has stirred great controversy. Some, like Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal, have taken up the same theme. He has warned against tolerating candidates producing "stupid" and "bizarre" statements and positions. Others, such as Rick Santorum and Rush Limbaugh, blithely dismiss Powell's statements as being reflective of his soft Republicanism.
For some on the right, anyone who does not swallow their radical views on greens or climate control is simply a RINO - Republican In Name Only. Although Powell has served three Republican presidents and has supported, in nine elections, one Democrat - Barack Obama - for this, he has become an apostate. Many making these criticisms hold positions coming from the darkest labyrinth of the American right, reminiscent of the John Birch Society's leader in the 1960s, Robert Welch, denouncing Dwight Eisenhower as a Communist dupe.
Partially, the strange ideas of the Tea Party come from those of former segregationists who took up the GOP standard only after Democrats took a firm Civil Rights position. Roy Harris explained his support for the GOP in 1964 strictly in pragmatic terms.
"We took four states for Goldwater," Harris stated, "and hell, we didn't even like him. He voted against the Civil Rights Act, and we just showed our appreciation."
Republicans seeking a Southern strategy, shrewdly, or so it seemed at the time, attempted to merge the economically based gains in the upper south with the race caucus vote in the lower south. Dwight Eisenhower, who did not use any racist appeal, took Louisiana in 1956. He did so largely because urban voters preferred Republicans because they were considered business progressives, while Democrats were the old courthouse crowd.
Richard Nixon did make subtle appeals - making gestures such as trying to weaken the 1965 voting rights act and ending guidelines for school desegregation. Although Nixon was a very good lawyer and knew the then-liberal Supreme Court would move to make short work of his actions. Nixon's appeals were more symbolic than substances. Ronald Reagan would follow a similar line in the early 1980s.
The reason these main-stream conservatives would go to so much trouble was to secure the South. Goldwater called it going "where the ducks are," simply securing votes. Certainly nothing wrong with that. But over the years, it has left a yeasty legacy which has led to anti-public school movements, efforts to suppress the vote, and in general, the denial of the rational universe. Republican candidates, in an understandable attempt to keep these voters, throw them a rhetorical bone or two. Then the radicals discovered that old creator of political havoc, long prized by Democrats - the primary.
Saxby Chambliss - certainly no liberal or moderate - is a clever conservative who knows not to express every thought. He suddenly announced that he was not going to seek re-election in 2014 because he might be "primaried." How conservative do "right wingers" believe their leaders should be? Poor Lindsay Graham has been reduced to political baby talk in his effort to prevent a right-wing party challenge. As ridiculous as he might sound, ol' Lindsay will not be able to please them; meanwhile, he loses any national credibility.
Jindal smartly warned about the consequences of forcing smart conservatives to take positions alienating the general electorate.
Of course, Republicans will counter that the Democrats have leftists that manage to alienate the electorate. However, the far left is separate from the party majority. Republicans have their own extreme wing. Certainly they would be advised to follow Gen. Powell's and Gov. Jindal's suggestions and admonishments.