Now, at a time when the national GOP is trying to find its voice and cultivate new candidates, California GOP activists have begun engaging in a new pastime: issuing "fatwas" to punish state Republican legislators deemed too moderate on tax issues.
This circular firing squad was on display last week at a "Tax Revolt" rally that drew 8,000 people to a Fullerton parking lot. It was organized by popular conservative talk show hosts John and Ken - John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of radio station KFI in Los Angeles.
The raucous California tea party featured such dramatics as the spearing of a likeness of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's head, and the sledge-hammering of a pile of Schwarzenegger dolls, videos and movie memorabilia - even an action hero lunch box.
The radio hosts' "fatwas" target a handful of moderate GOP legislators who sided with Democrats to end the state budget impasse. Their calls to recall those lawmakers have reverberated throughout the Republican grassroots.
"It's becoming the fatwa party ... the Jon and Ken party," said Hoover Institution media fellow and GOP consultant Bill Whalen.
And the Democrats are having a good time with it:
Democrats, at least, are cheering them on.
"It's the definition of insanity - they keep doing the same thing, over and over," said Ben Tulchin, a veteran Democratic pollster based in San Francisco who says that the Republican antics have kept the party's eyes off the real prize - winning elections in California.
"Instead of trying to expand their support, they keep appealing to the far right, which gives them a dwindling percentage of the vote," he said.
But I can't help but remember 2004, when the Democrats were "a national party no more," when they were the punch line of every joke, when they couldn't block anything the Republicans wanted to do (well, some things never change).
The fact is, the Democrats got where they are not because of their own brilliance, and not even because of Republican extremism, but because the Republicans utterly failed at the business of running the country. Had the Republicans not been so numbingly inept, they'd still be in power, just as extremist as ever, only no one would be talking about their "disarray." This is particularly something to keep in mind considering Obama has been anything but impressive coming out of the blocks, particularly with regards to the economy -- the one issue, more than any other, that put the Democrats where they are. The breaks don't have to all go the Republicans' way in the future for a reversal of sorts to happen, and then these same crazy Keystone Cops everyone laughs at for their extremism will be running the show again. The Democrats being what they are, the Republicans don't even need a nominal majority to run things; they just need to get close enough to numerical parity to stop looking like losers to the media people. The Blue Dogs will then flip, and it will be something like 1994 - 2000 all over again, with a Democratic president presiding over the implementation of Republican policies -- except Obama lacks both Clinton's skill and his balls, and these Republicans are, simply, batshit crazy, as opposed to the '90s Republicans who were merely ... "eccentric" ... by comparison.