The current republican fiscal cliff infighting is more than just a routine intra-party feud. It is an indicator of irreconcilable differences between the two principal wings of the party.
On one side we have the wealthy intellectual wing whose principal interest is maintaining a status quo that overwhelmingly benefits the top ten percent. Additionally, they would like to tweak the social safety net in a manner that would guarantee their aristocratic status for generations to come. These people are not wedded to their political positions and have already began to abandon those positions which threaten their political influence. From their perspective, immigration and tax issues are little more than bargaining chips. If their power is threatened they will jettison unpopular positions with little hesitation. That leaves us to discuss the ugly side of the party. The extremely angry, evangelical, ideologically hard right "working class and working poor" wing of the party. Additionally the libertarian wing can be bunched with this group but an argument can be made that they have always been in revolt. These people are as dedicated to their beliefs as they are wrong. They are anti-intellectual, ideologically rigid, and politically ignorant. They will not hesitate to nominate candidates that are extreme to the point of absurdity such as Christine O'Donnell and Sharon Angle. They not only believe that these clown candidates have a legitimate chance of winning, they joyfully accept losing as a badge of honor because the losing candidate was sufficiently pure. This extremist attitude is deadly to a party.
John Boehner is now wedged between the two wings of the party with no passage to safety for either him or the party. He submitted an initial fiscal cliff proposal that was far too right wing for the Democrats to consider. This is not an unusual or irresponsible act for a party leader heading into expectantly tough negotiations. As could be easily predicted, the opposition rejected it as unreasonable and extreme. However, the reaction in his own party is an indicator of the GOP's structural problems. The conservative backlash was immediate and unrelenting. John Boehner is going to be forced to move to the left and accept some policies that neither he nor his base has any desire to support, yet his base is erupting in anger over his first proposal. A proposal which he already knows has no chance of being accepted. John Boehner is now a man on an island. Caught between an empowered Democratic President, a fiscal crisis which his party is surely to be blamed for, and a base which believes that compromise is heresy.
What does this all mean? In my opinion it means that the GOP is in very serious trouble. Their base is blind to changing demographic issues and determined to oust any GOP congress member that strikes a deal with the President. The final budget deal will almost certainly infuriate the GOP base to the point of revolt. Alternatively, failure to strike a deal will set the nation on course for a recession and doom the party to a broader revolt among democrats, moderate republicans, and independents. This could spell disaster for the party in the 2012 mid term elections. My best guess is that John Boehner cuts a deal with the President and the base goes rabid, calls for his head on a platter, and supports extremist primary opponents against the members who voted for the deal. Ultimately, we already know how that move ends. In some instances these extremist lose seats in districts that were almost guaranteed to go Republican and in others they win. We are then left with fewer GOP Congressman, and the ones who get elected are extreme beyond reasonable compromise. The party has been getting smaller and more extreme which has produced this dynamic..which will cause it to get smaller and more extreme...which will cause it to get smaller and..wait, are we noticing a pattern?