Charges are flying that Obama is stoking an internal war among the Republicans, trying to get them to savage each other. And because he's in politics, this theory rings true.
But then, why have Republicans done so much to help him, shredding each other with unseemly gusto, before he has even the chance?
In 2008, during the fiscal implosion, they took two weeks off from the campaign against him to engage in a tong war over the much-loathed Troubled Asset Relief Program that turned a difficult race into one already lost. Between 2010 and 2012, they threw away four seats in the Senate -- two to primaries, one to Todd Akin, and one when they drove Olympia Snowe out of politics. This gave us Obamacare, when a primary election threat drove Arlen Specter back to his old party, where he morphed from a critic to an ardent supporter of that much-despised and badly formed legislation.
And last week, Republicans turned the lame duck into a TARP rerun, capped by a half-baked attempt to dismember the speaker, which embarrassed both him and themselves. This is what happens when people decide that some on their side are really The Enemy and get distracted from those with whom they have much larger differences. So before they move even more down this dream-scene-for-Democrats road map, there are three facts they might think of and four things they should do.
Fact No. 1 is to realize a political party isn't a church nor a cult but a mechanism to get diverse people who share some things in common to work toward a common position of power that none could achieve on their own. Fact No. 2 is that unless you can convert your principles into actual policies, standing upon them does no one a favor. If you believe in your principles but can't convert others, you are not an asset. If you antagonize them, you and your principles are a real liability, and perhaps you should shut the hell up.
Fact No. 2 is that because no coalition big enough to win power can ever be pure or completely united, and no pure wing or segment can be big enough to win or rule on its own, it is in everyone's interest to cherish the mavericks. Each party needs members who vote with them sometimes. Conservatives dreamed of the day they could rid themselves of the Snowes, Lugars and Castles; that day has come, and they and their party are weaker than ever. Many conservatives would kill now to have those seats back.
Sometime soon, before the debt ceiling crisis writes a thrilling new chapter, Republicans should sit down together and try to agree on four things: to name the shared goals that they want to move forward; to decide what to do to in a practical manner (in the real world, not an imagined alternative); to find their best spokesmen, and have him (or her) speak for them all; and to remember exactly who their real enemies are -- who, in the real world, are not themselves.
The Tea Party loves the Gadsden flag symbol, with its poised-to-strike rattler and "Don't Tread on Me" message, but there is another illustration of that era that it ought to note: Benjamin Franklin's cartoon of a snake, chopped into 13 small pieces, unable to make any threatening noises. Beneath it was Franklin's exhortation for unity among the 13 Colonies: "Join, or Die."
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."