A party in trouble

In a sane and rational world, Republicans would absorb the lessons of the last election and adjust their behavior to better appeal to voters. 

When cash-flush Mitt Romney wins less than 47 percent of the vote in six of the 10 battleground states, in the midst of unprecedented economic malaise, they have a problem.

When they squander a Senate map in which Democrats were defending 23 of the 33 contested Senate seats — losing a net two seats — they have a problem. Importantly, their losses didn’t come in battlegrounds like Florida and Ohio but in solidly red states like Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota. 

When their hold on the U.S. House is predicated entirely on gerrymandering — not on getting the most votes — they have a problem. On a national basis, Democratic House candidates earned nearly 1.4 million more votes than their Republican counterparts but gained just eight seats en route to a 33-seat minority. This gross disparity highlights one simple fact: If it were up to voters, Republicans wouldn’t hold a single branch of government.

Yet rather than reflect on those losses, take stock of changing demographics and look for ways to become more palatable to the American mainstream, Republicans — goaded on by their rabid conservative base — are becoming even more insufferably inflexible.

Rather than show empathy for a nation mourning the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Republicans have rallied around a stunningly arrogant NRA, refusing to consider even the mildest restrictions on ownership of weapons of mass destruction. If they really need more than 10 rounds in their magazines to take down a buck, they should work on their aim.

Rather than negotiate in good faith for the “grand bargain” on deficit reduction that President Obama desperately desires, Republicans are engaging in outright economic terrorism, holding our nation’s creditworthiness hostage to pursue their ideological agenda. 

Rather than rush federal aid to states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, Republicans have fought tooth and nail to deny them any recompense. Their obstructionism was so complete that Mississippi Rep. Steven Palazzo, who begged the federal government for more aid for his Katrina-stricken constituents as a state official in 2005, voted to deny the same kind of aid to New York and New Jersey in 2012. 

In short, the GOP caucus has objectively defined itself as a bunch of insufferable jerks. And the American people sure aren’t embracing this tea-flavored jerk caucus. The latest Talking Points Memo polling composite shows that over 72 percent of Americans disapprove of congressional Republicans, compared to a laughable 19.5 percent fringe who approve. That’s down nearly 20 net points from six months ago, and it is a net 40 points worse than congressional Democrats’ ratings.

In fact, right-wing pollster Rasmussen, despite a persistent Republican bias in its numbers, has Democrats leading the generic congressional ballot 43-37. Republicans can hold the House if Democrats win the popular vote by a few points, as they did in 2012. Six points? Never mind the gerrymanders — say hello to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

That same Rasmussen poll found that approval of the Tea Party was at record lows, with just 8 percent of respondents identifying themselves as members. It was once as high as 24 percent. Yet it’s that 8 percent that’s calling the shots for a supposedly national party — a disaster that, if left uncorrected, will lead to Republican Party irrelevancy. And frankly, that would be great for America.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com)