Peter Smith | Moderate Republicans No Longer Have a Home, and It Started With My Defeat – The New York Times

Mr. Smith, a Republican, represented Vermont in the House of Representatives from 1989 to 1991.

“Over the last 30 years, the Republican Party has effectively eliminated its moderate and liberal voices — as well as the conservative voices that put country over party. The consequences of this takeover by an increasingly right-wing faction include the threats to democracy that have become increasingly prominent since the Jan. 6 riots.

When I lost my seat in Congress in 1990, I knew it was because I had co-sponsored a bill to ban assault weapons. The National Rifle Association and conservative Republicans in Vermont and elsewhere united to defeat me, calling the independent challenger, Bernie Sanders, the “lesser of two evils.” First, a right-wing candidate challenged me in the Republican primary, then many of his supporters aided the Sanders campaign in the general election.

Their plan: Elect Bernie Sanders for one term, then defeat him the next time around. The only problem: They couldn’t weaken him in a primary the same way and consistently failed to beat him in a general election. And the rest is history.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my defeat was an early step in the elimination of the moderate and liberal wing of the Republican Party. That process, aimed at members of Congress and state-level officials, began with the ascent of Newt Gingrich’s style of full-throated partisanship and has continued to this day. When moderates like Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine retired, the party typically nominated more right-wing candidates to succeed them. Over the years, the party’s capture by hard-line activists — and now, as seen in New Hampshire’s primaries last week, election deniers — has resulted in ever more extreme nominees.”

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