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In 1992, Patrick Buchanan mourned that the Conservative Revolution was over and that George Bush was its gravedigger. If he was right, all I can say is that Republicans refused to climb into the grave. Those zombies got a helluva lot of votes and sucked the life out of much of this country in the ensuing fifteen years or so.

With satisfaction and relief, then, I’ve seen the earth patted down on quite a few Republican political graves–earlier this month and two years ago. Ted Stevens’ departure was particularly gratifying.

The Republicans’ only glimmer of good news: When Stevens – the longest-serving Republican in Senate history – conceded his Alaska race to Democrat Mark Begich on Wednesday, he spared them the unpleasant task of having to expel him from their caucus.

I stirred that tidbit into the schadenfreude stew that’s been simmering on my back burner for weeks now. While Republican pols fret about how their party can survive, I’m eavesdropping and gathering more morsels for my stew. The traditionalists and the modernizers fight about who’s to blame for their worst back-to-back elections since 1930 and 1932. The traditionalists figure they need to give Americans even more of what we’re already pissed off about. David Brooks describes the ones who’ve dug in their heels:

To regain power, the Traditionalists argue, the G.O.P. should return to its core ideas: Cut government, cut taxes, restrict immigration. Rally behind Sarah Palin.

Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are the most prominent voices in the Traditionalist camp, but there is also the alliance of Old Guard institutions. For example, a group of Traditionalists met in Virginia last weekend to plot strategy, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. According to reports, the attendees were pleased that the election wiped out some of the party’s remaining moderates. “There’s a sense that the Republicans on Capitol Hill are freer of wobbly-kneed Republicans than they were before the election,” the writer R. Emmett Tyrrell told a reporter.

Others would like to puncture that self-congratulation, noting that the Limbaughs and Hannitys, for example, are a big part of the problem:

I try not to listen to talk radio, but sometimes it’s just there and, almost always, it seems like it’s there merely to drive me insane. I want to call in and wait my turn in the queue with 200 other angry people, most of whom I don’t think can even spell queue. Then I take a deep breath and remember that talk radio is slowly ruining the Republican Party.

Members of the energized right are spending time yelling at the top of their lungs about any number of perceived assaults on their values while politically motivated individuals on the left are utilizing new-media tools at a rate that should be alarming to conservatives. Others have expounded on the advantage liberal activists have gained from embracing the Web, including in fundraising and GOTV efforts, but few have noticed how a reliance on talk radio has provided diminishing returns for Republicans seeking elected office.

Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, worries that the party will go the way of the Whigs if they keep listening to those who rail against gays, immigrants, and welfare queens:

“We cannot be a majority governing party when we essentially cannot compete in the Northeast, we are losing our ability to compete in Great Lakes States, we cannot compete on the West Coast, we are increasingly in danger of competing in the Mid-Atlantic States, and the Democrats are now winning some of the Western States,” he said. “That is not a formula for being a majority governing party in this nation.”

“And similarly we cannot compete, and prevail, as a majority governing party if we have a significant deficit, as we do, with women, where we have a large deficit with Hispanics, where we have a large deficit with African-American voters, where we have a large deficit with people of modest incomes and modest financial circumstances,” he said. “Those are not factors that make up a formula for success going forward.”

Kathleen Parker favors the modernizers. Smiling wryly at conservatives who blame her for criticizing McCain and therefore contributing to his loss, she notes that:

Columns will survive or not as the market dictates, but the blistering response to a dozen or so fellow turncoats reveals something deeply wrong with the conservative movement, such as it is. Or was.

“Or was.” What a yummy tidbit.

In similarly childish behavior, those disappointed by Obama’s election are slapping the heretics who expressed doubts about the McCain/Palin ticket. It’s their fault that Obama won.

Good thinking. And turning on the kitchen light creates a roach problem.

Who would have thought I wanted roaches in my schadenfreude stew, but they add just the frisson it needs.

So what should Republicans do? According to  Parker, they should deprive evangelicals of their influence:

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Hmm. Much as I despise the influence of the wingnuts on public policy, I have to say that Kathleen Parker is ignoring the gorilla in the voting booth. Charles Krauthammer, representing the unapologetically fascist wing of the party,  edges right up next to the truth but backs away from nailing it. He recognizes that the economy is what did McCain in, but he insists that McCain’s loss is not the Republican candidate’s fault. Krauthammer points out that McCain was ahead until Lehman Brothers went bust on September 15th. Ever the party loyalist, he concludes:

At the same time, the economy had suffered nine consecutive months of job losses. Considering the carnage to both capital and labor (which covers just about everybody), even a Ronald Reagan could not have survived. The fact that John McCain got 46 percent of the electorate when 75 percent said the country was going in the wrong direction is quite remarkable.

But even Krauthammer recognizes that the game is up:

Which is not to say that Obama did not run a brilliant general election campaign. He did. In its tactically perfect minimalism, it was as well conceived and well executed as the electrifying, highflying, magic carpet ride of his primary victory. By the time of his Denver convention, Obama understood that he had to dispense with the magic and make himself kitchen-table real, accessible and, above all, reassuring. He did that. And when the economic tsunami hit, he understood that all he had to do was get out
of the way. He did that too.

With him we get a president with the political intelligence of a Bill Clinton harnessed to the steely self-discipline of a Vladimir Putin. (I say this admiringly.) With these qualities, Obama will now bestride the political stage as largely as did Reagan.

Krauthammer almost acknowledges the obvious: It’s the economy, stupid. It’s the GOP insistence on deregulation and on shoveling more and more of the money into the hands of the superrich. That’s the nasty little habit that none of these Republican “thinkers” notice as their cardinal sin.

Who knows whether the Republicans will glue themselves back together thirty years from now? I hope not, but I’m not going to worry about it. I’m living for today–while the stew is piping hot. Here. Have a taste.

“I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say things are not going well for the Republicans. Two years ago they controlled both the White House and the Congress. Soon they’ll be controlling both the Coke machine and the fry station.”

—Stephen Colbert