The Republicans lost another crucial election last night. It was their third special election loss in a row. All three were deeply Republican districts in the past. This one was in the heart of Mississippi and was in a district that George Bush won with 62% of the vote in 2004.
The Republicans are in deep, deep trouble. If they lose in these districts (the other two were a Louisiana seat they had kept for three decades and Dennis Hastert's former seat in Illinois), they can literally lose anywhere. The whole electoral map can be redrawn.
So, what's their new plan? Go further to the right! No, you schmucks, that's what got you in trouble in the first place. The problem is the Republican Party has become so extreme there are no moderates left to tell them they should head in the opposite direction.
Usually when a political party is beaten this bad (as they were in 2006 and the elections since then), they correct course by going toward the other side of the political spectrum. They head to the center to pick up lost ground. The Republicans, on the other hand, have been like drunken gamblers who are sure that their next double down bet is going to make it all up. If we just double down one more time ...
Well, they did double their bets on these special elections. They spent $1.3 million in Mississippi of the precious $7.2 million the NRCC had left. They brought in Dick Cheney to campaign for their candidate (talk about heading in the wrong direction). And they lost again.
They have got to realize that they are not unpopular because they haven't been true enough to their principles, it's because they have. Their principles are merciless and lack all compassion. And it turns out that the American people look for some degree of compassion and competence out of their leaders. So, the Republicans are in a bind.
They wanted to drown government in a bathtub. They did and wound up drowning their own party instead. It turns out the American people want a government. They think it serves a purpose.
The problem isn't that conservative principles are never right. Of course it makes sense to lower taxes when the highest marginal tax rate is at 70%, as it was in 1980 when Reagan came into office. But equally obvious is that at some point taxes can be too low for the government to function effectively. And when you have a gigantic national deficit, a government that can't respond to national emergencies like Hurricane Katrina and a disastrous war you can't pay for - that might be the point where taxes are simply too low to pay for the government the American people want and expect.
There might be a time for war, but it's not the answer at all times for any reason at all. We might have to get tough on immigration policies, but we don't have to crush people's souls to do it. There might be a time to get tougher on crime, but the answer isn't always vengeance. The Republicans have lost sight of all moderation.
If the Republicans keep heading due right, they will burn their party to the ground. And someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Charlie Christ will have to rebuild from the ground up as a more moderate, reasonable party. But it will take decades.
Remember George Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative" in 2000 and won with lots of smokes and mirrors by convincing people that he was a kindhearted Republican. I think history will look back at 2004 as the aberration. It will be the outlier in history.
In 2000, it was hard to know what Bush was exactly up to and he lied about his intentions (remember his "no nation building" and "humble foreign policy" pledges). But in 2004, we should have known what we were getting into. That election will be known as the Great Mistake.
But right now, as we speak, the American people are looking to correct that mistake. And when the Republicans run their tired, old campaigns based on pessimism, attack ads, fear-mongering and dark outlook, they will get crushed. Bank on it. There is a tidal wave coming in 2008. And apparently, the Republicans have no idea what is about to hit them.