With a government shutdown here and the internecine battles in the Republican party reaching a fever pitch, David Frum tries, as so many others have, to be a voice of reason in the GOP. But as he correctly notes, this has little hope of succeeding because the extreme right tail is now wagging the Republican dog.
All in all, it’s hard to see any positive outcome emerging for Republicans from this confrontation. Yet the party is charging forward anyway. Why?
The short answer is a breakdown in the party’s ability to govern itself. It can’t think strategically. Even when pressed to do something overwhelmingly likely to end in disaster, as this shutdown looks likely to do for Republicans, the party has no way to stop itself. It stumbles into fights it cannot win, gets mad, and then in its anger lurches into yet another fight that ends in yet another loss.
Republicans who want to fight smarter are called squishes; Republicans who wish to fight less are called RINOs—and both have been hunted pretty near to extinction. Instead of effective opposition, we see those doomed spasms. And out of these spasms, Obamacare looks sturdier than ever—and any hope of negotiating to fix its worst elements seemingly further out of reach than ever.
This is always the problem with extremists and zealots: Purity is the only thing that matters to them. Not intelligence or thoughtfulness or good strategy, just ideological purity. And anyone who dares suggest otherwise is dismissed as a weak-kneed appeaser. That same dynamic plays out in almost every large idea-based movement (including atheism, quite often).