The Republican Party has reached its Ninotchka period. Ninotchka, you may recall, was the eponymous Soviet commissar played by Greta Garbo in Ernst Lubitsch's 1939 MGM comedy, released one year after Stalin's show trials resulted in the execution of all of the tyrant's more moderate predecessors in the Soviet leadership. "The last mass trials were a great success," Ninotchka notes. "There are going to be fewer but better Russians."
Like the Stalinists and the Jacobins, today's tea party zealots have purified their movement not by executing but by driving away those Republicans who don't share their enthusiasm for wrecking their country if they can't compel the majority to embrace their notions. Today, there are fewer but "better" Republicans if "better" means adhering to the tea party view that a United States not adhering to tea party values deserves to be brought to a clangorous halt. NBC News-Wall Street Journal polling last week turned up a bare 24 percent of Americans who have a favorable impression of the Republican Party a share almost as low as the 21 percent who have a favorable impression of the tea party.
Also like the Stalinists and Jacobins, today's Republicans devour their past leaders. To the hard-core right wing, the Bushes, Mitt Romney, Bob Dole and John McCain are irritating vestiges of the party's pussyfooting past; none was sufficiently devoted to rolling back the federal government when he had the chance. Thankfully, the Bushes et al. haven't met the fate of Bukharin and Danton but they are as conspicuously absent from today's Republican rallies and state conventions as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin are conspicuously present.