Although Paul Krugman admits at the end of his latest column that the Republican Party "retains the ability to do a lot of harm," and thus "the odds are that the next few years will be very, very ugly," he thinks we're seeing the beginning of the end of the GOP as we know it:
... what we're having is a political crisis, born of the fact that one of our two great political parties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The modern Republican Party's grand, radical agenda lies in ruins -- but the party doesn't know how to deal with that failure....He says the party has failed in its grand goal of severely cutting back Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, because Americans still like them. He notes that "Republicans now have to watch as Mr. Obama implements the biggest expansion of social insurance since the creation of Medicare." And he says that
all of [the] party's sources of strength have turned into weaknesses. Democratic dominance among Hispanics has overshadowed Republican dominance among southern whites; women's rights have trumped the politics of abortion and antigay sentiment; and guess who finally did get Osama bin Laden....Krugman thinks Republicans "have no idea what they want" in terms of federal budget cuts because President Obama is demanding that they enumerate the things they want, out loud, in public. The fact that they're reluctant to ask openly for steep cuts to specific popular programs doesn't mean they've stopped wanting those things, or stopped looking for ways to ram them through. Maybe they can't do the ramming now, with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts putting them at a negotiating disadvantage, but they still control the debt ceiling, and they still have plenty of opportunities for blackmail, so the opportunities will be there in the future to force their goals into bills passed in the dark of night, with their gun pointed at the president's head.
So Republicans have suffered more than an election defeat, they've seen the collapse of a decades-long project. And with their grandiose goals now out of reach, they literally have no idea what they want....
Maybe they can't do more than chip away at the programs they hate, while causing small amounts of mayhem (forcing Susan Rice's withdrawal, slow-walking Sandy aid). But they can do that endlessly. And mucking up government is an end in itself for the GOP, because Republicans hate government.
In effect, Republicans are like the anti-government insurgents we see overseas. Maybe they can't seize the capital, but they can make trouble for the national government -- and they can take control of certain provinces and turn them into rebel strongholds. That's what they're doing in Michigan right now for instance -- and it's not just right to work:
One day after Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers made Michigan a right-to-work state, the Republican-controlled Legislature on Wednesday moved to approve two more divisive issues -- abortion restrictions and a new emergency manager law.Also:
The Legislature -- rushing to get out of the capital city today for the holidays -- is poised to complete their top priorities of a $600 million personal property tax cut for business, new regulations on abortion providers and an alternative emergency manager law to one voters tossed out last month....
Good morning Michigan. After 2 am, the #MILeg exempted mines from taxes, re-opened a private prison, and passed the citizenship checkbox.— Progress Michigan (@ProgressMich) December 14, 2012
(The emergency manager law allowsan anti-democratic siezure of control of bankrupt local governments by the state government, primarily to slash budgets and bust unions. The citizenship checkbox is an affirmation of citizenship on Michigan ballots, a voter suppression tactic that was tossed by a federal judge for this year's elections.)
So the GOP has plenty of agenda left. The agenda is making America either Republican or ungovernable. Parts of America are the former, and in D.C. the Republicans will settle for the latter -- for now.