Turns out everything I've ever said about the current state of the Republican party, and everything I likely ever will say, has just been written in one article, by a former career Republican congressional staffer. Read it. And let the denials begin. Here are a few highlights:
....But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.
... To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots... But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today...
It was this cast of characters and the pernicious ideas they represent that impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill. A couple of months ago, I retired; but I could see as early as last November that the Republican Party would use the debt limit vote, an otherwise routine legislative procedure that has been used 87 times since the end of World War II, in order to concoct an entirely artificial fiscal crisis.
Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care. ... - the attitude of many freshman Republicans to national default was "bring it on!"
It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult... This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.
[...]Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster.[...]A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.[...]
... Republicans are among the most shrill in self-righteously lecturing other countries about the wonders of democracy... But domestically, they don't want those people voting.
You can probably guess who those people are. Above all, anyone not likely to vote Republican. As Sarah Palin would imply, the people who are not Real Americans. Racial minorities. Immigrants. Muslims. Gays. Intellectuals. Basically, anyone who doesn't look, think, or talk like the GOP base. This must account, at least to some degree, for their extraordinarily vitriolic hatred of President Obama. I have joked in the past that the main administration policy that Republicans object to is Obama's policy of being black.
While Democrats temporized, or even dismissed the fears of the white working class as racist or nativist, Republicans went to work. ... [T]he faux-populist wing of the party, knowing the mental compartmentalization that occurs in most low-information voters, played on the fears of that same white working class to focus their anger on scapegoats that do no damage to corporations' bottom lines: instead of raising the minimum wage, let's build a wall on the Southern border (then hire a defense contractor to incompetently manage it). Instead of predatory bankers, it's evil Muslims. Or evil gays. Or evil abortionists.
How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? - can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative "Obamacare" won out. Contrast that with the Republicans' Patriot Act. You're a patriot, aren't you?
There's more. A lot more. And it ends with a paragraph that I've written myself, in paraphrase, over and over:
If Republicans have perfected a new form of politics that is successful electorally at the same time that it unleashes major policy disasters, it means twilight both for the democratic process and America's status as the world's leading power.