Why is the GOP growing a spine over steel?

It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when the GOP became the malignancy that it is today. But it’s fairly easy to draw a straight line from the nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president to the present moment. The cynical and desperate selection of Palin in the summer of 2008, and the subsequent lionization of her on the populist right, was the first unmistakable sign that conservatism had been reduced to one gigantic irritable mental gesture.

The party has been punished exactly once — in the form of President Obama’s 2012 re-election — since that moment.

For their remorseless opposition to fiscal stimulus during the worst economic crisis in half a century, and then to the concept of universal health care, the party was rewarded in 2010 with a triumphant takeover of the House of Representatives. How’s the “Tea Party revolution” looking today as Republicans, with their unified control of the federal government, have ditched the anti-Obama cudgel that was budget sequestration and (again) embraced deficits as far as the eye can see?