Basically, I think we’re screwed, at least for now. We need members of the defund caucus to step back from the brink. But they have every reason to believe that their stance will redound to their political benefit in their districts. The Republican leadership has few if any tools with which to discipline members of the defund caucus, as individual members have their own fundraising networks and there are no earmarks to be parceled out. The only way out of this trap appears to be a long, slow learning process.
Robert Costa echoes:
When you hear members talk candidly about their biggest victory, it wasn’t winning the House in 2010. It was winning the state legislatures in 2010 because they were able to redraw their districts so they had many more conservative voters. The members get heat from the press but they don’t get heat from back home.
Mark Schmitt goes into more detail:
[T]he modern Republican Party is not strong. It’s something more like a loose association of independent forces, including Tea Party–backed members, those with their own sources of campaign money from ideological backers, many with seats so safe that they can happily ignore all their non-conservative constituents, and outside agents like Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, who Businessweek recently described as the de facto Speaker of the House. Many of its politicians have deliberately cut themselves off from all the incentives that traditionally moderate and stabilize politics—earmarks, constituent service (many offices say they won’t help constituents maneuver the ACA), and infrastructure spending. With safe seats, and hearing little dissent at home, they are able to do so. Cutting themselves off from the incentive to build and maintain a strong and viable party is part of the same story.