After the 2006 midterm election, the Republican Party showed such a dramatic inability to engage in self-reflection - and self-correction - that in 2008, they ushered in a beating without precedent at all levels of government. Now, as the GOP prepares to oppose President Obama's economic stimulus plan, to oppose a president with overwhelming approval ratings and a mandate for change, to oppose a piece of legislation with broad support from a desperate public, it is becoming ever more clear that, from the perspective of the Republican leadership, a hole worth digging is a hole worth digging deep.
Since Election Day, the post-mortem analysis of the Republican Party, by the Republican Party, has been exceptionally superficial. Most GOP officials and conservative opinion makers argued that the party was led astray because of an abandonment of conservative principles. Republicans failed and a liberal Democrat was elected, Republicans concluded, because Republicans weren't Republican enough. It's with that brand of logic that they've begun moving forward.
Having presided over an economic crisis not seen since Hoover, their squabbles with pork and excessive spending in the economic stimulus plan will be perceived as ranging from blindingly disingenuous to outright hypocritical. When the public lost the benefit of a government it could trust, the Republican party lost the benefit of the doubt.
What the party has yet to fully accept is that there are long-term consequences to losing credibility. Long after public opinion had cratered around Republican ideas and officials, long after the scandals, and the crises, no matter the facts, no matter the consequences, the leaders of the Republican Party defended their debunked philosophies and tainted colleagues.
Now, injured and wayward, the Republican leadership has geared up for a fight it cannot win, against a president who, both in mandate and in institutional advantage, enjoys unmatched power. That they cannot see the strategic error they are engaging in, that they are unable to regroup and reformulate, self-assess and readjust, is perhaps the answer to the most dumb-founding of questions. How could the Republicans, who only four years ago spoke of a permanent majority, have allowed themselves to become almost entirely irrelevant?
They have only one playbook, and it doesn't apply.
You don't win a post-partisan argument by being partisan. You win it by being right. If the Republican Party hopes to survive, they need to get on board, the sooner the better. They should stand with President Obama, support his policies and his mission, take credit for some of his accomplishments, and hope, hope, that he one day makes a mistake. Unless and until that happens, the public will continue to treat them like the obstacle they've become - unreasonable and irrational, unqualified and ill-equipped for government.