It began in the 2008 presidential election when they wagered — perhaps safely — that Barack Obama, a first-term U.S. senator from Illinois, couldn’t win the White House.
The risky gambling could have ended there. Republicans could have assumed the traditional role of loyal opposition, offering good-faith compromises to the major legislative issues of the day. Instead, they gambled that an all-out effort to resist Obama would not hurt them at the polls.
In the 2010 midterm elections, their bet paid off. With conservatives rallying under the Tea Party banner, Republicans took majority status away from Democrats in the U.S. House. The Republicans lost the race to control the U.S. Senate as the sort of extremism from candidates that played well in super-secure House districts fell flat in several key states.
Republican prospects looked solid so long as leadership pleased the grassroots radicals exercised by the very thought of Barack Hussein Obama occupying the White House. That feat, however, hasn’t always been easy for Republican leaders in the House. Tea Party Republicans came to Washington to set the town ablaze with the refining fires of uncompromising ideology.
The 2012 congressional elections were a repeat of 2010 — R’s took the House and extremist Republicans in various Senate races kept D’s in control. Oh, and Obama won a second term in the White House.
This mix was expected to bring conflict. Eight months after the president’s second inauguration we have it in the form of a government shutdown that was pending as this editorial was written.
However, there’s a twist this time. The conflict is mainly among Republicans — those who argue that no amount of threats will delay or defund Obamacare vs. those who are ready to drive the nation off the cliff in the name of ideology.
Whether the government shuts down or not, it’s clear the cliff-drivers have won the day. Any consequences of this unnecessary brinksmanship will land on the shoulders of Republicans, even those who have counseled against this unprovoked fight with the president.
Republicans overplayed their hand. They’ve had opportunities aplenty to return to place themselves in a less-exposed posture. They did not, and soon we may all pay the price.