President Obama’s surprisingly forceful inaugural address Monday heralding a leftward shift in American politics was just the latest bit of bad news for a beleaguered Republican Party. In November, Republicans blew their chance to defeat him. Then they lost the showdown over the fiscal cliff. Then, on Wednesday, they backed down from their threat to force a debt default if Democrats did not accept deep spending cuts, meekly agreeing instead to suspend the debt limit until May. Until recently, Republicans had insisted that the debt limit was their strongest point of leverage over Obama.
Since the election, the GOP has been a foundering mess — angry, defiant, confused, less popular than ever, and lacking any evident plan to right the ship. One reason for this crisis is that Republicans from Mitt Romney on down took it as an article of faith that Americans would reject a second Obama term. Most have not yet come to terms with the fact that Obama won, and did so handily. In a speech to the Ripon Society on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner complained that Obama was determined to “annihilate” the Republican Party; but it would be closer to the truth to say that the party seems intent on annihilating itself.