Is the Republican party bent on self-destruction? David Broder’s column in today’s Washington Post features an interview with an unnamed longtime Republican bigwig from the South who laments what has become of his party–in particular, President Bush’s veto of the stem cell bill and congressional Republicans’ refusal to wage the minimum wage from its current rate of $5.15 per hour. (The latter stance appears to be changing.) The same dynamic was evident in Texas during the recent election cycle when GOP heavyweight contributor James Leininger, of San Antonio, ploughed more than $2.5 million into attempting to defeat five Republican lawmakers who had opposed his pet program of school vouchers. In Houston, rabid anti-taxers are on the warpath against Rick Perry and David Dewhurst. Others are calling out GOP lawyer-legislators (and legislative candidates) who represent plaintiffs, labeling them “sharks.” The effort to impose conservative orthodoxy is bound to backfire in the long run, because the GOP electorate as a whole is more moderate than the activists. The soccer moms in the suburbs are just not going to put up with this nonsense forever.

The latest sign of just how much the right wing has the party in its grip came after the stem cell veto, when a group of–well, I started to call them “moderate” Republicans but maybe I should just call them . . . –“sane” Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives tried to round up colleagues to sign a letter to Kay Bailey Hutchison showing support for her vote to allow more stem cell research. They could only find ten signees. I know only seven of the names–it was a late night conversation and the source was world-weary–but I’ll post the others later in the day. In the meantime, here’s the partial list: Byron Cook, Rob Eissler, Charles Guerin, Rick Hardcastle, Brian McCall, Joe Straus, and Beverly Woolley. Good for them and for the other three. Shame on the rest.