William Brock was a U.S. senator from Tennessee from 1971 to 1977. Jack Danforth was a U.S. senator from Missouri from 1976 to 1995. Trent Lott was a U.S. senator from Mississippi from 1989 to 2007. Don Nickles was a U.S. senator from Oklahoma from 1981 to 2005.

Each of us has had the privilege of serving in the U.S. Senate, with Republicans as diverse as Jacob Javits and Jesse Helms. There were many policy areas on which we did not agree, but fundamental values held us together.

Across the ideological spectrum, Republicans believe that the strength of America lies in a free people whose strong values are productively engaged in a healthy private sector, not under a heavy and domineering federal government. We believe in limited government to keep this a land of unlimited opportunity. We believe in a strong national defense to keep our children safe.

These principles have united Republicans across a broad base of Americans from every walk of life, enabling us to win elections. And that success has enabled us to govern, putting our values to work for a better, safer, stronger America. Nothing is more important today.

With President Obama, a Democratic majority in the Senate has led our country in the wrong direction — to unprecedented budget deficits, an exploding national debt and rising gas prices, while failing to address the tragedy of never-ending unemployment and declining housing values. And yet despite their majority, Senate Democrats have, with very few exceptions, refused even to consider major legislative initiatives this election year. And this will be the third year in a row that the Senate has not passed a congressional budget resolution.

Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the imperative of electing a Republican majority in the Senate as well as a Republican president. We must end the excessively partisan bickering, of course, but new leadership is required for Congress to speedily and effectively address the critical issues besetting the American people.

Results count in politics. The point is to win elections, not to enthuse about lost causes. As Charlie Brown said, “Winning isn’t everything, but losing isn’t anything.”

The question this election year is whether Republicans can build a coalition of voters large enough to win the support of our nation, gain a majority in the Senate, end the hyper-partisan gridlock so exemplified by the abusive actions of the Democratic Senate majority, and restore this land’s traditional spirit and optimism.

As the campaign season began, prospects looked promising. A dismal economy and the president’s low approval ratings suggested a clear opportunity. Moreover, Democratic Party policies of more spending, higher taxes, endlessly multiplying intrusive regulations, and picking winners and losers in business were opposed by Republicans across the board and served as ready-made rallying points on which to campaign. Our party held the high ground. We could fight the battle on principles central in the minds of every Republican.

Perhaps the optimism rose too quickly, for false divisions, based more on labels than facts, began to be raised. “Moderate” became an epithet to be hurled at opponents said to be something less than true Republicans. The acronym RINO (Republican in Name Only) was used to vilify men and women who had devoted much of their lives to serving in office or supporting our party’s candidates. One need go no further than to note that primary challenges were mounted against two of our most distinguished and dedicated Senate icons, Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar, with claims that even these solid conservatives were not pure enough.

In our day, it was common for conservative Republicans to campaign for moderate colleagues, and vice versa. The goal was control of the Senate, not absolute ideological conformity, because the ultimate purpose was to keep Congress true to America’s core values — and that result required a majority.

Many of these more recent assaults constitute an attempt at a political purge, an effort to remove from the party all but the “doctrinally pure,” however critics define purity. Such efforts would deny all that our party is. We do not have the right to determine who can “be” a Republican on the basis of some litmus test, ever.

Republicans have learned from 150 years of practical experience in elective politics that inclusion, not exclusion, is the winning formula. Since the party’s inception, its principles and unifying philosophy have spanned the concerns and principles held by much of the American electorate. We have no need to qualify the word “Republican”; we simply have to live up to it.