They know they can win even when they lose
As is so often the case, Ed Kilgore gets it right:
Now as I’ve noted before, it’s become fashionable to believe that this disarray over strategic goals in a crisis situation reflects some sort of GOP “nihilism,” a lack of any clear shared objectives. I think it’s the opposite: an abundance of goals that are simply unobtainable in normal politics but that might be secured via negotiations where the opponent (Barack Obama) makes it happen and provides cover.
I would just add that although they cannot get all that they are demanding, I think they will actually end up with at least some of what they want. But in the minds of their most fervent followers (and a substantial number of the idiots they've elected) they are a persecuted minority who are fighting for their lives so anything less than full victory for their entire agenda will be felt as a defeat. (And that feeling will be stoked and nurtured by the right wing industry that profits from their persecution complex.)
Yes, they want to mess with Obamacare. They want to begin undermining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as they are currently constituted. They want to make the federal tax code even more regressive. They want to maximize institutional pressure on the portions of the federal budget they dislike. And as Ralph Reed reminds us, yes, they want to ban abortion and restrict federally-supported access to birth control. And most of all, they want to set a precedent that control of the House (which they view as semi-eternally theirs), the chamber that mythically is charged with management of “the purse,” is power enough to make and secure big demands on the size, structure and direction of government, regardless of what happens in, say, presidential elections.
I have been pointing out ad nauseam, for too many years now, that the Republicans are perhaps the most effective opposition party well ... ever. It's not that they win all their battles by any means. They lose a lot. And now they finally seem to have even lost much of the political establishment which took decades to notice that they'd become a bunch of radical cranks. But that isn't going to stop them because even though their wild-eyed followers may be unhappy that they didn't get the magic pony they were promised, the real strategists like the moneybags Koch brothers and Pete Peterson, along with smart operatives like Norquist and Ryan, know that they can advance their agenda no matter who is in power. The tactics shift depending on the circumstances, but the overall strategy never changes: drown the welfare state in the bathtub.
It's important to remember that Norquist and the boys are very long term thinkers. To them, low taxes aren't just a rich man's perk rewarding them for being "job creators" --- or even a generally good thing on pure principle. Low taxes are a means to an end. And that end is this:
The common vision: an America in which the rich will be taxed at the same rates as the poor, where capital is freed from government constraints, where government services are turned over to the free market, where the minimum wage is repealed, unions are made irrelevant, and law-abiding citizens can pack handguns in every state and town. "My ideal citizen is the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed-carry permit," says Norquist. "Because that person doesn't need the goddamn government for anything."
"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
It's not as if they've been quiet about this. And the thing about Norquist and the boys is that while the GOP is their main political instrument, they also use the Democrats --- through money, intimidation and now, political terrorism. They don't see their agenda as being subject to the whims of the people through its democratic processes. They will use whatever tools they have at hand.
"We want to reduce the size of government in half as a percentage of GNP over the next 25 years. We want to reduce the number of people depending on government so there is more autonomy and more free citizens."
Norquist is a revolutionary:
There was nothing traditionally conservative in Grover's approach. As I conformed myself to the movement, I was being inculcated into a radical cult that bore none of the positive attributes of classical conservatism-a sense of limits, fair play, Tory civility, and respect for individual freedom. On the contrary, Grover admired the iron dedication of Lenin, whose dictum "Probe with bayonets, looking for weakness" he often quoted, and whose majestic portrait hung in Grover's Washington living room. Grover kept a pet boa constrictor, named after the turn-of-the-century anarchist Lysander Spooner. He fed the snake mice, all of them named David Bonior, the outspoken liberal House whip.
Not that Grover is literally running the Republican party. He's just one of many ideologues and operatives who make a very good living at right wing politics. His tax pledge has been an effective tool although it may have finally run its course as the whip that keeps the caucus in line. (But then they have other whips now --- called primaries.) He is not personally relevant except to the extent his thinking has permeated the conservative movement for a generation. Why would anyone be surprised that they have become political terrorists now? They have been leading up to this for over 25 years.