The Incredible Shrinking Republican Party continues to not disappoint, as they spin themselves rapidly further into a hole, oblivious to their situation and their destiny.
Faced with the loss of Arlen Specter in the Senate, their message was, literally, "good riddance" and, according to their charming leader-by-default Rush Limbaugh, take John McCain and the other RINOs with you. The war on RINOs has been a staple of wing-nut radio for years, as they blamed two cycles of electoral thumpings on candidates who were not loopy-right enough. They say they would just as soon relative moderates and/or independently-minded senators like McCain, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe stop pretending to be Republicans and hit the road. If that happened (it won’t – Snowe, at least, still clings to the quaint New England version of her family's GOP), that would put the Senate math at 63 in the majority, with 2010 bound to add 3 or 4 more Democrats to the fold. Thus the new, ideologically-pure party digs deeper into irrelevance; the Talk Radio Wing-Nut Party of their wet-yet-impotent dreams.
It doesn’t help that the dominant anti-moderate wing of the party has installed its stooge at the head of the party – the eminently clueless Michael Steele – who was willing to use the occasion of Specter’s overdue switch to kick a large part of his own party under the bus. "I’m sure his mama didn’t raise him that way," he snarked, as he whined about Specter’s disloyalty (i.e.: his unwillingness to stay on the GOP Titanic). Talk about mixed messages. The traditional Republicans (like Snowe) are damned if they leave for being disloyal and damned if they stay for being RINOs.
Although a small faction of the party is trying to knock Steele down a notch by restricting his spending authority, I say: The more Michael Steele the better. Every time his dumb ass shows up on cable, I drop everything I’m doing, turn it up, and enjoy the show. Not since, well, Junior Bush has anyone so clearly out of his depth been thrust into a national leadership position. The difference between Steele and Bush, though, is that Steele appears to have no idea how truly comical he is. At least Bush had people around him to write his scripts and keep him away from microphones. Steele lurches into television studios, reveling in a spotlight that only serves to highlight his incompetent message delivery, as he paints the GOP further into a nut-right corner. Now, apparently, he is going after what he imagines as the Bush/Cheney old guard in his own party. What a riot. The guy needs a prime time show – we all need a good laugh these days.
Instead of accepting the Specter defection as a wake-up call, the GOP leadership in Congress is following Steele and the talk-radio demagogues off the cliff. In the House and Senate, they continue to whip their members into unanimous opposition to all things Obama, despite the president’s extraordinary popularity and the slow, tentative economic rebound that his policies have so far produced. The Republicans are betting and hoping that the economy remains miserable and somehow Obama and Democrats will be blamed for it in time for the 2010 elections. Even if that does happen, they still have to offer a legitimate alternative and the tax-cuts-for-the-rich party is hardly that.
Obama came to the White House with at least small hopes of bipartisanship in the face of the various crisis dumped on his lap by the Bushies and has been rebuffed at every turn by the Party of No that refuses to even acknowledge obvious and pressing national problems. How can you reach any consensus with people who refuse to admit that we have to do something about health care or climate change? There is no middle ground when irresponsible GOP "leaders" would just as soon let banks and auto companies fail; imagine what kind of death-spiral we would be in with the party of economic Darwinism in charge.
The Republican Party is going the way of the Whigs. History shows us that the Whigs fractured over the slavery issue in the 1850s, the wrong (pro-slavery) side taking over the party and leading it to oblivion. Now, the GOP’s minority relative-moderates are being driven out in the name of ideological purity, and the party is increasingly regional – only the South and Plains states remain. A couple more election cycles and the party will be (or should be) left for dead. The only question is whether and when conservative-to-moderate Democrats and Republicans peel off to form the second party this country desperately needs.