Easy Chair — From the January 2014 issue

Donkey Business

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That the Republican Party has worked its way to a lonely and unpopular place is not news. The G.O.P.’s congressional wing has been moving rightward since the 1980s, and in the five years of the present slump they have simply picked up the pace. Once they dealt in unpopular privatization schemes, but today they have graduated to extremely unpopular shutdowns and threats of default, and those among them who hesitate are thrown to the ravening mob. Red is the color of revolution, and today the G.O.P. suffers under its own peculiar Reign of Terror, in which newly arisen extremists continuously outflank the extremists of yesterday — and public opinion be damned.

As sheer spectacle, this Tea Party Thermidor inspires a certain fascination and even amusement in the observer. But the larger question always returns: Why haven’t Democrats made the G.O.P. pay for its widely despised views? Why aren’t they threatening to run up monster victories in even the safest red districts? What combination of incompetence and bad luck allowed the party of Roosevelt to fumble away the House of Representatives in the third year of an economic crisis — and then to keep on losing it even as its standard-bearing president was reelected by a substantial margin?

Let’s find out.

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