Everything the Republicans and their paid propagandists in the Media have been doing and saying since November 5 has had one goal.
Holding the Party together.
It's always fun to remind them who won the last election, but they really don't need the reminding. They know the results. And they know what the results suggest about what's in store for them. They can read the polls. Barack Obama is wildly popular. Independents have abandoned them. The demographic trends are against them. If things continue this way in less than a generation it will be easier to find a person under forty who identifies as Zoroastrian or philatelist than one who identifies as Republican.
Under these circumstances, the sensible thing to do is fall back and re-group. Gather the most loyal and reliable and determined troops together and do everything you can to keep up their morale and keep them ready to fight back when the time to fight back arrives.
The smart thing to do, then, would seem to rally the base, keep them happy and energized, and donating, and get them out there working for the next election.
The trouble with this for the Republicans is that their base is their problem.
The base is insane.
Sane, decent, and intelligent people don't want to have anything to do with the Republican base anymore.
For the last forty years or more, the party of the man who called upon the angels of our better nature has been surviving and thriving by deliberately appealing to the demons of people's worst instincts.
Fear-mongering, hate-mongering, war-mongering, invitations to paranoia, envy, and self-pity, anti-intellectualism, know-nothing-ism, incitements to apocalyptic and eliminationist thinking, these have been the blood and muscle of Republican rhetoric for decades. And none of it has been an appeal to Americans' supposedly innate conservativism. It's not conservative at all. It's Right Wing, extremist, reactionaryism that tempts people into thinking of themselves as victims of a conspiracy of Others, named and unnamed.
It's an Us vs. Them view of life that more and more Americans have listened to over the years and heard that the definition of Us probably doesn't include themselves.
To keep the base happy, the Republicans have to keep it's members angry and afraid. To this end, it doesn't matter what they say, it's how they say it. It's the tone that matters. Coherency, relevancy, consistency, integrity, principle, accuracy, fact, reality, truth, none of that's needed. All that's needed is sound and fury even if it signifies nothing.
This isn't to say that there's no consistency in their rhetoric. No matter what other nonsense they're spouting, one idea keeps popping up.
The idea that there is a real America that is separate from the one most of us live in.
This other, real America appears to be all white, mostly Southern, mostly rural, all Fundamentalist Christian, and, as it turns out, mostly male or, at least, male-dominated and male-run, which is why another feature of Republican rhetoric is an aggressive and preening masculinity.
But it's a masculinity that is bound to be unattractive to women and plenty of other men, because it is the masculinity of men who don't feel particularly masculine, who in fact feel emasculated. It's a vicarious masculinity belonging to weak and insecure men who can only find potency in their identification with other, apparently stronger men, the proof of whose superior strength is their ability to dominate others---in other words, it's the masculinity of men who worship bullies.
The base, then, is crazy, fearful, hateful, and self-loathing.
It's no wonder that the corporate elitists who actually run the Party disgust and appall themselves whenever they have to go out and appeal to the base and deal with its leaders. It's also no wonder that they're losing control of the base and with it the Party and having to watch as the likes of Rush Limbaugh (a bleakly amusing case of the literally impotent leading the politically and economically impotent) and Sarah Palin (a sexually potent woman whose appeal lies both in her femininity and in her being better at "manly" pursuits like hunting and governing than most of the men who flock to her rallies) take control.
And one of the scarier things about an Us vs. Them world view is exactly what we're seeing happen within the Republican Party, the notion of who belongs with "us" keeps narrowing to the point where Us vs. Them becomes Me vs. All The Rest of You.
The Right is sailing against the currents of time and progress in a leaky lifeboat caulked and patched with their own paranoia and every time the little tub ships water they turn on each other, accusing one of their own of mutiny and sabotage until someone who thought he was part of the crew discovers he's suddenly unnecessary ballast and winds up getting thrown overboard.
They are flying a plane held together with spit, chewing gum, baling wire, and duct tape that's fast losing altitude and the pilot's just told the passengers that they have to lighten the load to stay airborne.
Now everybody's frantically looking around and discovering that there's nothing left on board to jettison but the guy in the seat next to them.
Related: Wev McEwan on the Rank and File's rankness.
Party morbidity watch update: At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Rob Farley takes the GOP's pulse and declares its symptoms dire and its condition critical but says the diagnosis is not necessary terminal.