Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei report that Republican leaders are looking to purge their party of its most unsightly and off-putting elements. But the scale of the task is underscored by this darkly comic passage from their piece:
One high-profile Republican strategist, who refused to be named in order to avoid inflaming the very segments of the party he wants to silence, said there is a deliberate effort by party leaders to “marginalize the cranks, haters and bigots — there’s a lot of underbrush that has to be cleaned out.”
In order to purge a party of crankish and bigoted sentiments, you would need to identify what those sentiments are. Climate-change denial? Opposition to gay marriage? “Self-deportation”? Railing against food stamps? Supply-side economics? (Republican economist Greg Mankiw’s textbook once associated the view that tax cuts increase revenue as a myth promulgated by “charlatans and cranks,” but later excised the slur because of the political sensitivities it provoked.)
But the moderates in the party can’t openly challenge their crankish and bigoted ideas. Moderate Republicanism is a secret creed — a set of beliefs that is expressed anonymously, but lacks any public standing to openly engage in a battle of ideas within the party. There are plenty of Republicans who secretly disdain the crankish and bigoted ideas that flourish in right-wing media and have come to be accepted as gospel by the rank and file, but there is almost no public questioning of them.
The hilarity here is that the strategist felt he needed anonymity in order to denounce “cranks, haters and bigots.” Apparently, enough Republicans would hear a line like this and think, He’s talking about me! to make it a dangerous sentiment with which to associate oneself.