Between the humiliating and chaotic collapse of Speaker Boehner's already ludicrously extreme Plan B and Wayne La Pierre's deranged proposal to put government agents in schools with guns, the Republican slide into total epistemic closure and political marginalization has now become a free-fall. This party, not to mince words, is unfit for government. There is no conservative party in the West – except for minor anti-immigrant neo-fascist ones in Europe – anywhere close to this level of far right extremism. And now the damage these fanatics can do is not just to their own country – was the debt ceiling debacle of 2011 not enough for them? – but to the entire world.
Those of us who have warned for years about this disturbing trend toward ever more extreme measures – backing torture, pre-emptive un-budgeted wars, out-of-control spending followed, like a frantic mood swing, by anti-spending absolutism of the most insane variety in a steep recession, vicious hostility to illegal immigrants, contempt for gay couples, hostility even to contraception, let alone a middle ground on abortion … well, you know it all by now.
But the current constitutional and economic vandalism removes any shred of doubt that this party and its lucrative media bubble is in any way conservative. They aren't. They're ideological zealots, indifferent to the consequences of their actions, contemptuous of the very to-and-fro essential for the American system to work, gerry-mandering to thwart the popular will, filibustering in a way that all but wrecks the core mechanics of American democracy, and now willing to acquiesce to the biggest tax increase imaginable because they cannot even accept Obama's compromise from his clear campaign promise to raise rates for those earning over $250,000 to $400,000 a year.
And this is not the exception. It is the rule. On abortion, the party proposes that it be made illegal in every state by amending the Constitution. Torture? More, please. Iran? It should be attacked if it merely develops the technological skill to make a nuclear bomb, let alone actually make one. Israel? Leading Republicans don't just support new settlements on the West Bank. They show up for the opening ceremonies!
Gun control? A massacre of children leads to a proposal for more guns in elementary schools and no concession on assault weapons. Immigration? Romney represented the party base – favoring a brutal regime of persecution of illegal immigrants until they are forced to "self-deport" – or rounding as many up as they can. Climate change? It's a hoax – and we should respond by shrieking "Drill, Baby, Drill!" Gay marriage? The federal constitution should be amended to bar any legal recognition of any gay relationships, including civil partnerships. Their legislative agenda in this Congress? To "make Obama a one-term president." Not saving the economy, not pursuing new policies, not cooperating to make Democratic legislation better. Just destroying a president of the opposite party. And, of course, failing.
Then there is the rhetoric. In just the last fortnight, House Republicans have asserted that secretary of state Clinton faked her recent fall and concussion at home in order to get out of testifying on the Benghazi consulate attack. And then the Weekly Standard quotes a Senate Republican staffer saying: "Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite."
Enough. This faction and its unhinged fanaticism has no place in any advanced democracy. They must be broken. But the current irony is that no one has managed to expose their extremism more clearly than their own Speaker. His career is over. As is the current Republican party. We need a new governing coalition in the House – Democrats and those few sane Republicans willing to put country before ideology. But even that may be impossible.