Josh Marshall, a long time ago in an election far away:
Let's call it the Republicans' Bitch-Slap theory of electoral politics.More...
It goes something like this....
One way -- perhaps the best way -- to demonstrate someone's lack of toughness or strength is to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves -- thus the rough slang I used above. And that I think is a big part of what is happening here. Someone who can't or won't defend themselves certainly isn't someone you can depend upon to defend you....
Hitting someone and not having them hit back hurts the morale of that person's supporters, buoys the confidence of your own backers (particularly if many tend toward an authoritarian mindset) and tends to make the person who's receiving the hits into an object of contempt (even if also possibly also one of sympathy) in the eyes of the uncommitted.
Since that time, of course, we got a presidential candidate who was able to work around that dynamic. Better still: this now describes the dynamic within the Republican party. Party leader offends Limbaugh; Limbaugh slaps him down; party leader caves; party leader looks weak and pathetic.
The whole party looks weak and pathetic.
This is a particular problem for a party that values above all else the appearance of strength. The crackup is happening now because the single unifying principle for Republicans was the authoritarian impulse, and now there's no authority. When they had the president, they could organize around defending him; when they had a candidate, they could organize around getting him elected. Now there's no one, and now--suddenly!--they notice that the people they voted into office to drown government in a bathtub instead went on a massive spending binge to reward their contributors and expand their own power.
The contradiction itself isn't the problem; the problem is that there isn't any single leader who can harness their authoritarian impulse and keep them from noticing the contradiction. So the astroturf teabagging takes on a life of its own, in a way that should give no comfort to party leaders. So luminaries like not-Joe the not-Plumber decide to go their own way.
Because power was their raison d'etre, the loss of power is their undoing. Karma's a bitch-sla