After a romping victory in 2010 on the promise of jobs, jobs, and more jobs, the right wing of the Republican Party stuffed themselves on hubris and got stupid. Seven months after the election, Republicans have yet to create a job. But that doesn't mean they've done nothing.
They've unleashed a torrent of brutal and unwanted "culture war" legislation, they've caused deficits to soar by maintaining tax cuts on people Americans want taxed more and handouts for companies Americans despise. Republicans have threatened to turn the American environment into the sewer it had become in the sixties. They've gone to the ends of the Earth to protect and coddle the Wall Street thieves who stole trillions of dollars from the global economy. They have really annoyed what had been a demoralized labor movement and prodded it to a level of activism it hasn't seen in a generation. And more important than anything else, they have threatened to end Medicare in all but its name.
In the face of this, Mitch McConnell's task of positioning the Republican Party to be competitive in 2012 is daunting.
While his task may be hard, though, McConnell's strategy is simple. Make sure the Democrats share in the blame for the egregious missteps of his own party.
If McConnell can make Democrats agree to any kind of large cuts to Medicare, he will neutralize that issue for 2012. If he can make Democrats agree not to raise taxes on people Americans desperately want taxed more, he will neutralize that issue for 2012. If he can make Democrats agree to culture war riders and amendments on must-pass legislation, he will neutralize that issue for 2012. If he can move Kentucky's terror trial to a military tribunal, he will neutralize half of Bush 43's legacy as an issue in 2012.
Democrats lose a lot of gunfights by only bringing knives. But the fight this summer over the debt ceiling is a knife fight and, unfortunately for McConnell, the only weapon he has is a great big bundle of dynamite. The economic catastrophe that would come from his making good on his threat to force America into bankruptcy is simply too massive to be credible. It would destroy the Democrats but it would destroy the Republicans and the rest of the country in the process.
All Democrats have to do to foil his plan is to refuse delivery. If they take a play from McConnell's own playbook and just steadfastly say "no", he will have no choice but to fold. If they give in to him, they will richly deserve the lashing he himself will turn around and give them as thanks.