A reader writes:

You were writing of how insidious the birther problem is for the Republicans, crawling and taking root across their membership like kudzu, in their attempts to deny legitimacy to Barack Obama. And all it's done for me (and I'd venture a good percentage of all Independents) is to deny legitimacy to the Republican party.

They played with this. They indulged it. They poured resources into the tawdry pols who would smile upon it, or insinuate it when they weren't downright trumpeting it from their podiums and microphones. They chose to do this and then realized that they might have a little problem with this parasitic thing that they seeded.

And it's their problem. To vote for them would make it mine. No thank you.

There is no policy idea or politician they can shine up that would appeal to me at this point, because they have taken their party right into the dirt with this birther business. Those who didn't participate also didn't make efforts to put a stop to it. Those would divest themselves of responsibility now are the worst culprits of all. If you dabble with racism – then you are a racist.

And last time I checked? You don't win elections without Independents. This Independent is done with them. You might as well ask me to vote for the Klan.

I have to say that this kind of thing has alienated me profoundly from the GOP even though on some questions, I am exactly the sort of fiscal conservative they might appeal to. It's been clearer to me than ever before in the reaction to president Obama just how hostile the Republican base is to modernity and the diverse America I find one of this country's greatest strengths and joys. It's not the policy positions so much as the tone – toward Latinos, toward gays, toward anything that might be called "the other." Nothing taught me this as much as the easy embrace of torture, and indifference to it, as long as the president was a Republican and the victims had dark skin and funny names.

The GOP as a cultural entity has made me nauseous.