In politics, like in anything else, there are good risks and bad ones. It often is difficult to evaluate political risks until many years after the fact. Nevertheless I think it is safe to say that when betting one's immediate future on a movement, it is a good idea to make sure said movement exists.
This is not a joke
Having impolitely and poorly faked their way through about 15 days' worth of bipartisanship, the mask has fallen off of Congressional Republicans and they've lapsed into a faithful re-enactment of the Clinton Years. They're throwing down the gauntlet and making their opposition to everything the President has to say loud, clear, and obnoxious. Republican Governors from dogpatch states like Louisiana are vowing to reject Federal money their piss-poor constituents could probably use. This is quite a gamble. The number of people without jobs and at the end of their financial ropes is high. But the GOP is banking on massive, grassroots opposition to the President's quasi-Marxist legislation which is apparently looting Joe Six Pack's wallet. (I thought the package was 40% tax cuts, but…bah! Details.)
One problem: it doesn't exist. The President is popular right now. The Congressional GOP is slightly – and I emphasize slightly – more popular than dick cancer. The pricey stimulus legislation is going over well too. The Democrats are literally twice as trusted to handle the crisis as their opponents. The massive movement opposing the legislation is nothing more than the same 20% of the people who give George W. Bush a thumbs-up, the same people who would bitch and moan if Obama shit six tons of platinum and cured cancer. The pontificating and bloviating by Richard Shelby, Bobby Jindal, and the rest isn't convincing Americans to oppose the administration. It's a minstrel show, a song-and-dance to entertain the stale crowd of rubes, militiamen, fundies, and chickenhawks who make up their base. That said crowd predictably barks and slaps its flippers together in approval is beyond irrelevant.
Of course these levels of popular support for Obama and the Democrats will change quickly if the legislation fails and the economy remains in the toilet. But here's the thing, the big question that no one in the GOP seems smart enough to have considered: what happens if the stimulus works? Do they have any idea how fucked they're going to be if the country does not collapse into a rubble heap as they're all desperately and selfishly hoping it will?
The foolishness runs even deeper. It's the nature of our economic system to experience ups and downs. Politically, whoever is in office is saddled with (often undeserved) responsibility. A thinking man would gamble that the current recession is going to be followed by a recovery, a recovery which will probably manifest itself in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Who do the GOP think is going to get credit for that? Even if the stimulus does absolutely nothing, Obama is going to look like a hero if things get better on his watch. Having opposed him tooth-and-nail, having told the entire country that he's a communist who will destroy America, having made clear that only the Republican alternative could ever pull the country out of its malaise, how is the GOP going to respond when the economy inevitably turns around? How will Rush, even with his vast and wild imagination, dream up a way for the GOP to take credit for it?
Had the party offered at least token support for the legislation they could have hedged their bets. It would have provided an insurance policy, a way to say "All the good parts were our idea." It was obvious that the legislation would pass, so why not throw 30% of the House Republicans on board just in case? Instead they put on a meaningless show to entertain and get a round of applause from people who already vote Republican all the time, every time, no matter what. They have gone all in, betting everything that not only will the stimulus fail but the economy will not improve. That has all the wisdom of waiting until dark and then betting the farm that the sun will never rise again.