While this morning Dionne snaps a psychological Polaroid--"the past two years have been ... utterly abnormal, driven by tea party extremism and an irrational hostility to Obama"--Krugman goes for the prosecutorial panorama: "Republican posturing on the deficit has always been a con game."
There's variation here, yet both are vividly true. Dionne suggests that the Republican Party has grown acutely nuts, while Krugman--always the fiercer polemicist--charges a kind of unremitting political criminality. Progression from the latter to former shouldn't surprise; years and years of insidious scheming may well catch up to even the most cold-blooded, Machiavellian brain. The result is not merely the dreadful tedium of modern American politics--GOP obtuseness followed by GOP obstructionism, followed by GOP obtuseness ... --but the inexorable question: Pray, what next?
After sweeping away all this crazy Republican posturing about hating the deficits they actually love, what will be left of the GOP platform? Except in the Pentecostal swamps of Dixie and televangelists' profit-ravaged minds, social conservatism is terminal. It's essentially gone and shall never return. Which leaves Republicans' fiscal conservatism, which is anything but. Ever-higher, ever-accelerating deficits and debt have been the party's only hope of shredding the social safety net--in reality the GOP's singular raison d'etre, for social conservatism was but another con game of fundamentalist conscription. And now that hope teeters at the abyss. Republicans face years of Democratic domination and thus protection of entitlements in tandem with a responsible reduction of deficits.
And there's not a damn thing Republicans can do about it--well, excepting a few more psychotic breaks and, while possible, more grifter obstructionism. But that's not a political program. And it is, in politics, rather axiomatic that political parties, ahem, require a political program.