They can't help themselves. (image: Truthout.org / flickr)

Republicans don’t like a lot of things, a trait for which they’re somewhat famous, but they do like to win. Naturally enough, they also take a very dim view of losing, and that’s what always gets them in trouble.   When they lose, a whole passel of latent pathologies drive them to do the nuttiest things, most of which ultimately redound to their detriment, but they simply can’t help themselves.

The last two times they’ve lost the Presidency due to the usual rank incompetence and resulting widespread public revulsion, their reaction has been pretty much the opposite of what a sane person would do in such a situation, but the pattern is quite clear.  First, denial: Clinton didn’t really win because he only got 42% of the vote; Obama didn’t really win because, well, ACORN, Socialism, Kenya, and insufficient “vetting.”  No reed is too flimsy to cling to; no margin too large to dismiss out of hand.

Then there’s the anger, which is the last stop on their peculiarly truncated progression of grief.  This stage starts a little before inauguration, reaches full steam at the first midterm, and continues through reelection, subsequent impeachment,  and the devastating midterm to follow that.  If they’re lucky, the next stage is “winning” a rigged election, then feverishly undoing whatever accomplishments the demonic “Democrat” usurper has managed to achieve.  Rinse and repeat.

Fortunately for them, the media have the memories of fruit flies and the attention spans of toddlers, so they fall for the game (or at least pretend to) every time.  Unfortunately, Democratic Presidents are often corrupt and in need of impeachment, but for the wrong reasons.  Clinton sold out the country to the big banks, culminating in the recent unpleasantness, and abolished the last vestiges of the welfare state that might have alleviated it. But to right-thinking Americans, those are his good points, so they chose to impeach him for a blow job, of which Republicans are understandably jealous, but still left the electorate notably unimpressed.

Obama has violated the Constitution on multiple occasions with regard to wars, torture, leniency for the banks, and crackdowns on Occupiers and whistleblowers, but since Republicans approve of all those things, they are left with the thin gruel of Eric Holder and something called Fast and Furious.  Thus, playing Wile E. Coyote to Obama’s Road Runner, they ordered up a big box of “Contempt of Congress” from ACME, and the explosion that inevitably ensues is just a few minutes away.

It’s tempting to wonder whether Republicans would have more luck with their Church Lady jihads if they were at least scantily justified, but such speculation misses the point.  Just as extremism in defense of “liberty” is no vice, moderation, for whatever reason, is no virtue for this crowd.  Democrats can do whatever they want, as long as it’s not governing as a, well, Democrat.   Beyond that, anything goes.

It’s equally tempting to think of the position Obama would be in had he not capitulated to Republicans at every turn; the economy recovering more rapidly, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove et al on trial rather than on Fox News,  a more popular health care reform law, and torturers and banksters glumly awaiting a cake with a file in it.  Sadly, he didn’t pursue that path, and he’s left to lie in the bed of his own making, short-sheeted by Darrell Issa.

Call Republicans crazy, and cringe as you will at their tactics, but they do seem to work, win or lose.