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GOP stuck in stalemate

Earlier this year, Republican leaders decided to make a bona fide effort to find a solution to the vexing problem of undocumented immigration. It wasn’t an act of altruism. The 2012 elections delivered to them a rude wake-up call: either start winning among growth demographics, including Latinos, or be rendered electorally obsolete.

Yet those efforts have run into a wall of conservative opposition so fierce, it has paralyzed House Republicans. The ongoing stalemate hasn’t just further eroded the GOP’s standing among Latinos, it has underscored how broken today’s Republican Party has become.

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The immigration debate has riven House Republicans into two camps: those who acknowledge their demographic deficit and seek to remain electorally viable, and the xenophobes who cling to their biases and bigotry. In a free vote, the reformers would carry the day easily. However, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is afraid to act, lest his members revolt and depose him — even though the nativists don’t have the numbers and heft to kill reform efforts outright.

Consequently, reform efforts in the House continue to limp along, split into myriad legislative pieces, obstructed and delayed but still alive. So while a smart and competent Republican Caucus would either pass or kill the Senate bill quickly and move on to other matters, they are stuck with the worst of all worlds: they’re angering the base by failing to kill reform, while reminding Latinos and Asians on a daily basis of which party stands in their way of their aspirations.

The GOP is a party that can’t take care of its own internal business, and as a result can’t begin to manage the nation’s business.

It’s an intra-party dynamic that’s been on display on issue after issue — like on ObamaCare, where Republicans are divided by internal dissent among those who acknowledge the reality that any repeal will never be signed by President Obama and those who think they can magically kill a law that was passed by Congress, signed by the president and approved by voters in a de facto national referendum in 2012. In the gun debate, the GOP is split between a tepid expansion of background checks and a nihilistic NRA that refuses to cede a millimeter, no matter the cost in blood.

There are divisions between neocons, who want sequester cuts restored for the Pentagon, and budget-cutting absolutists. The libertarian right, which wants to see a curtailment of the national security state, can’t abide the mainstream Republicans who put it in place.

Not only do realistic Republicans have to deal with a radicalized and uncompromising base desperate for blood, they also have to contend with hucksters like Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) riling up the base to get a leg up on the 2016 nominating contest. And the battle has spilled over into other Republican primaries: over the last two cycles, the ideologues cost Republicans Senate pickup opportunities in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri and Nevada, and cost them a seat in Indiana — enough seats to regain control of the chamber. And now, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faces serious opposition in Kentucky, which joins the state of Georgia in vying for the honor of delivering the 2014 versions of Richard Murdock and Todd Akin.

But it’s the immigration debate, above all others, that best showcases the GOP’s rank incompetence and inability to govern. Heading into the 2014 elections, that’s not the type of message that usually sells.

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.