The Right Wing Crumbles

07/18/2011 10:35 am ET | Updated Sep 17, 2011

The right wing edifice is cracking, and you'll tell your grandchildren you watched it happen.

It's not just the debt crisis, or the fall of the House of Murdoch; fissures great and small are appearing within conservative ranks caught between what it's promised and what it can deliver, and between what it's seemed, and what it is.

History, in a word, is overtaking the right at a time the Democratic opposition seems united and in possession of the political and moral high ground; it's Pickett's Charge all over again.

The purists that drove the right wing tide think they're within reach of their goal of shrinking the government, and are urging each other forward regardless of cost. In the process, they're ignoring political pros who thought the right could be controlled, and who now seem to know they need to chose country over party and survive, or party over country, and perish.

Looked at this way, there's really only one outcome here; the GOP will chose to survive and will survive, though chastened and diminished. Meanwhile, the extreme-right wing House freshmen who say they came to change Washington, don't care if they're re-elected, and have the votes to block any deal they don't like, will lose the former and get the latter.

The main driver of all this is the right's long determination to starve the beast and force the government to shrink, the evidence of how far they're willing to go being the fiasco over the national debt. The right's been telling us for 50 years that this was their goal; but it was so fantastic that nobody took them seriously.

Now, alas, we know better. I'll bet you all the money in my pockets that nobody over 30 ever imagined they'd see the day Republicans would ignore the interests of corporate America, but here we are. Not only are GOP freshmen in the House dismissing increasingly frantic calls from business to avoid default -- they don't even believe it would be a bad thing, much less the door to a global catastrophe.

It's hard to understand their political calculations in all this. After all; it's perfectly clear that unless default turns out to be an immediate blessing, and absent a Democratic rout next November, blame for any bad outcome will be laid by the party at the right's doorstep.

So the GOP's right wing is choosing to be affirmed, or dead, since if it becomes obvious that the finer points of global finance have escaped them, and the GOP is blamed, nobody will take their calls for a long, long time.

And at this point in the process, default seems almost unavoidable. Just one indication; a week ago InTrade, the online bookie that will let you bet on almost anything, laid the chances of the US reaching a debt ceiling deal at about 80 percent. At this writing, it's 50.5 percent. Unless there's a deal by the time you read this, the odds will probably keep dropping. We could thank God for small favors, if the practical result wasn't so horrifying.

Looked at this way, Rupert Murdoch's problems -- except to him and his flock -- seem like small potatoes. The story is moving so fast that no one can predict where the bottom will be, or how long it will fester, though the apparent answers are -- deep, and long. The big guns are already beginning to bear on him and his son, James.

Will there be a picture of Rupert Murdoch in handcuffs? Sorry guys. He'll probably survive, and his empire with him, if only because the stuff he's made of floats. The bigger questions are how much damage will be done, what this crisis will do to his health, and what survival will look like for News Corp.

The likelihood Rupert Murdoch will come back like he was in the short or medium term is less than the likelihood he'll be diminished, and have to rebuild his influence. But this comes at a bad time for the Republican Party; one way or another, he and his deputy Roger Ailes will want to dodge any political pushback here, and so will have to dial back the typical News Corp. political shriek just as we're going into the 2012 elections.

Then, since Murdoch is 80, the question is whether his anointed successor, son James, has the extra juice his father has to be able to do the job his father would have in rebuilding, and enjoy the entre his father had -- even, in some minds, whether he'll survive. So on balance, News Corp. won't disappear; but whether it'll keep swinging its big stick is another matter.

Those are big cracks in the right wing edifice, but it could still survive -- if they were the only cracks. But they're not. And to the extent they join with smaller, but significant ones, the entire structure seems to be weakening -- going, again, into the 2012 elections.

After the likely fallout from the debt crisis and the Murdoch scandal, the biggest crack is probably the amazing spectacle of the race for the GOP Presidential nomination. Here, the GOP finds itself in a free for all, in which the competitor most likely to have a chance of defeating President Obama, Mitt Romney, could find himself with only half a party behind him if he wins, while the rest of the field ranges from the merely non-competitive to the outright odd..

This, in a party traditionally known for its discipline and cohesion, almost hands the election to the president at a time that Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-SC) has publicly said that the 2012 election will be the last chance to make his party's agenda a reality. If you were wondering which agenda that is: Richard Viguerie, called the "Funding Father" of the conservative movement, calls DeMint his "dream candidate."

Then, there are the cracks radiating from statehouses across the country.

• In Wisconsin, for instance, Gov. Scott Walker's aggressive move in his early days in office against his state's government unions, combined with tactics many call bullying and even un-democratic, plus revelations of his close ties to the liberal bete noir, the Koch brothers, have put him on the political defensive, and may undermined his hold on power; Democrats seem to be in range of taking three seats in the state Senate in special elections this summer, which would put them in position to block Gov. Walker's broader goals of cutting taxes and the size of government.

• In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott's managed to put a large fraction of his agenda into law, but at the price of one of the nation's lowest political approval ratings -- 29 percent. Observers there say he's governing from so far to the right that he's alienating everyone who doesn't share his views, and that while he's doing exactly what he said he'd do, voters apparently either didn't look closely at what that would be, or didn't really believe him.

• Texas Governor Rick Perry, meanwhile, is proving that the right wing governing template simply doesn't work; even though Texas has the lowest government spending in the country, it's still on track to producing a budget deficit projected to be as much as $29 billion. If Perry does declare for president and wins the nomination, he's bound to be vulnerable to that fact in a general election that will certainly be colored by the debt crisis.

• And in normally placid Maine, Paul LePage, elected with strong Tea Party backing, is creating enormous resistance to himself, and crippling his effectiveness, by talking first, thinking later, and sometimes saying things that are, according to some, simply untrue.

These examples don't even touch on the criticism heaped on local officials elected with right wing backing who, once elected, virtually ignore the law if it doesn't suit their purpose.

For just one example; in tiny Sidney, NY, Town Supervisor Bob McCarthy made international headlines after he decided to force a local group of Sufi Muslims to dig up their perfectly legal cemetery, apparently just because he wanted it that way. McCarthy eventually backed down.

Added together, all this suggests that, barring some amazing turnaround, the 2012 election will hand the GOP's right wing something like repudiation, so the GOP, and the country, can return to governing, instead of posturing.

Of course, that's my lips to God's ears, as my grandmother used to say.

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