Just as John Boehner was spooking the pseudoconservative herds this week with his paranoid humbug about the Obama administration's goal of "shoving" them "into the dustbin of history," the NYT's Tom Edsall, perhaps on John's more responsible behalf, was clanging every realistic alarm:
[R]eactionary forces have a death grip on the Republican Party, and their power has been cemented by the party’s institutionalization of closed primaries and caucuses (neither independents nor Democrats can participate) in more than half the states.
Yet, adds Edsall, those who ask that the party "reform" its institutionalization of inescapable doom are "asking groups of people to change who were brought together by their resistance to change. Their opposition to change is why they are Republicans."
From Edsall that's a key, unspoken distinction--they're Republicans, not conservatives. What's throttling contemporary Republicanism isn't traditional conservatism; what's throttling Boehner's disintegrating obscenity of a party is a profoundly false conservatism, which is why I intro-ed this post with yet another tiresome reference to pseudoconservatism. (I've been banging this Hofstadterian drum so long I have by now forgotten my thumping's date of origin.)
But of course "opposition to change"--a non-characteristic of authentic conservatism--stands in formidable opposition to reactionaryism, which aggressively agitates for immensely radical change, of the backward sort. So Boehner gets squeezed from every conceivable counterproductive side.
The fast-approaching budget and sequestration fights have created a dilemma for Republican House leaders. If the party backs [what Edsall calls] its conservative wing and allows the country to go into default later this year or submits to the draconian cuts mandated by sequestration, Republicans in swing districts could turn the House over to Democrats in 2014. If Republicans go in the opposite direction and compromise, significant numbers of House members will face primary challenges from the right.
Thus the loopy paradox of any real conservatism today: It is exceedingly hazardous to "conservative" Republicans.
Which is why--just to pick up my drum again--it is equally insane for Democrats in center-right swing districts to avoid exploiting the label of "real conservative."