I've been watching, with fascination, and, I admit, a little bit of glee, the self-immolation of the Republican Party.
It's been alternately exhilirating and ghastly, watching it all. For all intents and purposes, Rush Limbaugh has become the head of the Republican Party. Nearly anybody in the party who dares to question his leadership has been punked and compelled to apologize, most notably, the actual head of the party, Michael Steele. Thusfar, only one person who has questioned his "leadership" and the direction Limbaugh is leading the party, retired general Colin Powell, has refused to back down from his criticism. Though I don't agree 100% with Powell politically, I have the utmost respect for him. To watch draft-dodging pricks like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh tear into him has been painful.
As a student of politics and history, I can think of two examples, one on the right and one on the left, that compare to this: the Nazi Party and the Weathermen/Weather Underground.
As World War II ground to an end, Hitler and the rest of the party at first held out for a delusional miraculous victory over the enormous arrayed Allied forces. As even they were forced to conclude that their cause was a lost one, they blamed not their mad schemes and bad decisions, but the German people for their failure; Hitler even plotted to take the German people with him in death. In 1944, a group of German officers, including Field Marshall Irwin Rommel, tried to end the headlong dive into disaster by attempting to assasinate Hitler. They failed, and Germany lurched into a disastrous end to the war.
The Weathermen were an offshoot of the leftist student group, the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). The SDS did an enormous amount of good work in the sixties. Some people within the group, however, harbored violent fantasies about their role in society, and split off from the non-violent SDS to form the Weathermen. The group, which in the end were a bunch of rich kids playing at "revolution," took their name from a line in Bob Dylan's song "Subterranean Homesick Blues," ("You don't need a weatherman/To know which way the wind blows") They embarked on a violent-- and juvenile-- campaign of violence. It culminated in one of the most stupid demonstrations of all time, the "Days of Rage."
The dynamics of the group, like many insulated groups, was to reinforce the already delusional beliefs of the group. It led to a faction of the Weatherman concluding that American society was teetering, and all it needed was a good shove and it would topple. The shove was the "Days of Rage." The "Days of Rage" involved a splinter of the Weathermen, the Weather Underground, running down the streets of Chicago's downtown, smashing store and car windows. The participants, no doubt remembering the beatings protestors had received by the Chicago police the previous summer at the 1968 Democratic Convention protests, donned football helmets and other protection.
Their stupid actions were predictably futile. One would think that they would reaccess their worldview and strategy (especially if they saw how silly they looked in their football helmets). Instead, they concluded that they weren't violent and radical enough. They went "underground" and embarked on a campaign of violence and terror that included bank and armored car robberies that resulted in murders, the bombing of the US Capitol building and other acts of idiocy. As each act failed to bring down American society, and as the Vietnam War ended, they continued to become more and more radical and more and more isolated, kicking out members that didn't toe the "party line." In the end, they were an isolated and irrelevant group. When the law finally caught up with the remnants of them, in 1980, there was hardly any interest in even prosecuting them. They weren't even considered that dangerous-- except to themselves; in March of 1970, a nail bomb they were preparing in a "safe house" in Greenwich Village exploded and killed three Weather Underground members.
As a group becomes more and more insulated from reality, it creates its own little reality that makes sense inside its little universe-- and is complete nonsense to the rest of the world. The members enforce the whacko orthodoxy within the group by throwing out members who challenge their nutjob worldview by intruding with reality (see "Colin Powell and the Repubican Party"). Limbaugh, Cheney, Rove and the others have created an intellectual guilded cage that they're wealthy enough to furnish indefinitely. There will be no intrusion of reality into their world. What we can expect is for their assertions, demands and statements to become more and more bizarre until they create the intellectual equivalent of the Village Townhouse explosion.