In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 elections, there were a fair number of Republican leaders who recognized that their party had been soundly defeated, and were entirely sincere about getting the GOP back on track.
We heard talk about getting Republicans to "stop being the stupid party." We heard about breaks from "dumbed-down conservatism." We heard about a massive "rebranding" initiative that would broaden Republicans' appeal and position the GOP has a serious party. It was, we were assured, going to be awesome.
How'd that work out?
Sure, it was easy to be skeptical about the rebranding effort when it began in earnest seven months ago, but I find it hard to believe even the fiercest critics of Republicans could have predicted how badly the initiative could have gone. The party was in poor shape in the aftermath of its 2012 failures -- failures, by the way, the party didn't see coming -- but it's in far worse shape now.
Indeed, I'm trying hard to imagine what the party will tell voters over the next year, in advance of the 2014 midterms. Republicans have shut down the government; they're prepared to cause another debt-ceiling crisis and crash the economy on purpose unless a laundry list of ridiculous demands are met; they've probably killed immigration reform; they refuse to even consider a jobs bill; they've probably killed efforts to reduce gun violence; they're desperately trying to take food away from poor families; and they're on a mindless crusade to take away Americans' health care benefits.
What, exactly, might their 2014 pitch look like?
I've heard some talk in conservative media that Republicans will probably be fine, thanks in large part to gerrymandered districts that insulate the party from the will of the American electorate. Besides, they say, Gingrich and Dole shut down the government in 1995 and 1996, but kept their House and Senate majorities intact by the time Election Day rolled around.
But note what Karen Tumulty told Rachel last night: Republicans were so worried about losing Congress in 1996 that they started governing and making deals with the Clinton White House so they'd have some accomplishments to run on before voters went to the polls.
I suppose it's still possible that Republicans will end their shutdown and start taking governing seriously over the next 13 months, but right now, the "stupid party" label appears to be sticking.