It's no secret the Republican Party is dealing with a right-wing contingent that is small but loud and that threatens to run the party off the rails. The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty posits that the outcome of the government shutdown "presents an opportunity for the establishment to strike back -- and maybe regain some control from the insurgent wing."
With expressions of regret about the shutdown strategy from figures such as Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who sided with the shutdown squad on key votes, that process is already underway. But the process won't be complete until:
- There are successful primary challenges from the center against Republican shutdown advocates.
- Mainstream Republicans in primaries start using their opponents' support for the shutdown in attack ads.
- The Heritage Foundation returns to respected research, and Jim DeMint decides to spend more time with his family.
- Republican candidates don't want to campaign with Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
- Cruz doesn't get a speaking slot, at least in prime time, at the Republican National Convention.
- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., worries more about his participation in the shutdown vote than in immigration reform.
- Flagship conservative publications stop making excuses for Cruz.
- Talk radio hosts rarely talk about the shutdown. (They never apologize; they just move on.)
The shutdown can be a palate cleanser for the GOP if it is recognized as emblematic of what radical right-wing politics gets you. If it forces Republicans to coalesce around positive, attainable ends and good governance, then the shutdown debacle will be seen as the end of a very bad time in the GOP's history and not the beginning of the party's extinction.