By Eugene Robinson
It's been not quite two months since Republicans won a sweeping midterm victory, and already they seem divided, embattled and — not to mince words — freaked out. For good reason, I might add.
Sen. Lindsey Graham captured the mood with his mordant assessment of the lame-duck Congress: "Harry Reid has eaten our lunch." Graham's complaint was that the GOP acquiesced to a host of Democratic initiatives — giving President Obama a better-than-expected deal on taxes, eliminating "Don't ask, don't tell," ratifying the New START treaty — rather than wait for the new, more conservative Congress to arrive.
It was a "capitulation … of dramatic proportions," Graham said in a radio interview last week. "I can understand the Democrats being afraid of the new Republicans. I can't understand Republicans being afraid of the new Republicans."
Oh, but there's reason to be very afraid.
I don't want to overstate the Republicans' predicament. They did, after all, take control of the House and win six more seats in the Senate. But during the lame-duck session, it seemed to dawn on GOP leaders that they begin the new Congress burdened with great expectations — but lacking commensurate power. It's going to be a challenge for Republicans just to maintain party unity, much less to enact the kind of conservative agenda they promised to their enthusiastic, impatient voters.
In the Senate, there could be as many as 11 Republicans who might defect and vote with the Democrats, depending on the issue. There's a small but newly assertive group of moderates — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and independent Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with newcomer Mark Kirk of Illinois — who seem likely to fit that mold. And judging by the vote tallies in the lame-duck session, a half-dozen other GOP senators are willing to go their own ways.
Read the rest of this article at the Washington Post.