Republicans: a price yet to be paid
Aside from the immediate results of the debt-ceiling fight (whose final outcome we don't know yet), the Republican party is setting itself up for two self-inflicted wounds which are not reflected in current polls but will come to a head by election day next year.
The first is that the teabaggers have now driven a wedge between the party and one of its main constituencies -- big business. For weeks Wall Street has been growing increasingly alarmed at the threat of a default and has been warning House Republicans that it must not happen. Even if it doesn't, Wall Street will not soon forget that we came this close to the brink. And they know very well (even if much of the public doesn't) who is to blame. As David Frum points out, the normal fighting over the debt blew up into this crisis solely because the Republicans took the step, unprece- dented in US history, of threatening to not raise the debt ceiling.
The thing is, Wall Street itself helped create the problem that now so alarms it. Last year the Chamber of Commerce and financial companies spent $20 million to support teabagger Republican candidates, the very people who are now driving the party's intransigence. They paid for the bomb which is now threatening to blow them up. This will have consequences, in 2012 and beyond. Not that Wall Street interests will abandon the party, but they're now well aware of how dangerous the know-nothing element is, and they'll likely be more selective in whom they support. If this forces the party back toward sanity and the political center, that will be good for the country. In the meantime, it will sharpen the divide between the know-nothing teabagger element and those Republicans who, whatever their ideological differences with us, at least operate in the real world.
The second wound the party is about to inflict on itself stems from its Presidential nomination contest. Romney is the front-runner, the candidate of choice for moderate Republicans, and the only candidate who (based on current polls) has a significant chance of defeating Obama. But the fundies of the base are deeply hostile to Mormonism (example) and the issue will gain more prominence as he gets closer to winning the nomination. Expect an escalating flood of ugly anti-Mormon rhetoric from religious-right sources as the primaries progress, especially as fundies who know little about Mormonism start to read up on it and find out just how alien it is to their view of Christianity.
The reason this matters is that Mormons are one of the most solidly Republican voting blocks in the country. A wave of anti- Mormon hatred from the party base will shock and repel them, especially if it costs Romney the nomination. Again, I don't expect Mormons to turn Democratic en masse (if Romney is the nominee, they'll more likely turn out in record numbers to support one of their own), but it will be another wedge driven into the Republican coalition. Republicans have terrible difficulty winning support among racial minorities because they can never quite expunge the stench of racism wafting from their troglodyte wing. The last thing they need is to create a similar problem with a religious minority which now supports them.
Two years ago, I quoted a comment which sums up the present Republican party in a nutshell: "Basically as part the polarization strategy Rove and all these other geniuses some of whom are now whining about the outcome let the Morlocks out of the basement and they’ve taken over the house." By empowering the crazies -- the teabaggers and fundies -- the Republican party gained a burst of vigor and enthusiasm, but they have now indeed taken over the house, and the party is only beginning to pay the price.