Noting that only 28% of Americans have a favorable image of the Republican Party, E.J. Dionne Jr. has a good column today. The GOP would be in better shape, he writes, if it wasn't "defined by extremist voices who have faced little push-back from its leaders."
After recognizing the "birthers," the right-wing race-baiting, the insistence that health care reform will lead the government to murder senior citizens, and last week's dust-up over whether the GOP has been "taken over by Southerners," Dionne concludes:
In the short term, these tussles and rumblings may not matter much. The country is focused on judging what the Democrats are doing with the power they hold. The path that politics will take depends largely on the outcome of the health-care battle and the direction of the economy.
But to take advantage of the opportunities that might come their way, Republicans will have to make themselves an acceptable alternative. They have not done this yet. Facing down extremism and breaking out of the party's regional enclave would be good places to start.
He's right of course, but the problem he ignnores is that Republicans can't face down extremism, in part because the party has invested so much time and energy cultivating an angry GOP base (see post below).
In the meantime, Democratic leaders feel blessed to have such reckless and unhinged rivals. I know I do.