Thursday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow took stock of Republicans -- from where they stand on the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations to thier their overall message. If the wild, shouting-match free-for-all that went on under the Capitol dome Thursday night is any indication, the party is in complete disarray.
"Do you want to know what just happened in Washington?" she asked at the segment's opening. "Do you want to know what just happened, with Congress just unexpectedly imploding and the Republicans in Congress dissolving into a huge internal fight including screaming matches within their own caucus? And then all of a sudden, they're just turning off the lights and abandoning what they were doing and nobody really knows why, nobody really knows what happens next?"
It all started, apparently, with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). Since taking his Senate seat in 2004, DeMint, a tea party favorite, has sponsored no major pieces of legislation, but has instead spent his time building a coalition and amassing a great deal of support against Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), who the tea party see as being a little too squishy on some of their most important issues.
Then, DeMint abruptly announced earlier this month that he's leaving the Senate to chair the Heritage Foundation. In his farewell speech on Thursday, Maddow said, things got a little weird.
"I hope that we can create more common ground between the political parties," DeMint said, "by showing everyone that ideas that work for their constituents and our constituents are right there in front of our faces, if we're willing to set aside the pressure groups and special interests and let's just focus on what's working."
The camera cut back to Maddow, who looked deeply skeptical. This is Jim DeMint, one of the most obstructive, anti-Obama Republicans on the Hill calling for comity and a focus on the practical? And telling the party to ignore pressure groups?
"Jim DeMint is leaving the Senate to go run a pressure group!" she said.
Then there was the equally abrupt departure of Dick Armey from another pressure group, FreedomWorks, earlier this month. Add to that, the strange sight of anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist appearing in media outlets this week saying that it's alright for Republicans to sign on with Speaker Boehner's Plan B budget proposal to forestall the fiscal cliff.
By Thursday afternoon, however, he had abandoned the Plan B ship and was recanting his support of Boehner.
"What's going on?" Maddow asked. "We liberals have spent a generation, we've spent all this envious time studying the strength and depth and singular focus of the conservative movement, like they've got themselves so together. And then days like this, you pull back the curtain and it turns out it's just this little tiny guy going, 'I'm the big, powerful Oz! I'm the big powerful Oz! Somebody find the curtain!'"
"They are a complete mess," she said. "They are a complete mess and I'm not talking about the Republican Party, I'm talking about the conservative movement and that's more important, because the conservative movement is the dog and the Republican Party is the tail."
"Because of the chaos right now in the conservative movement," she continued, "in their K-Street, fake grassroots, big money, used-to-be-a-think-tank, revolving door, conservative influence lobbying, fundraising machine is such a mess right now, the way Republicans are trying to do policy on Capitol Hill is also a mess."
Maddow then detailed the negotiating process thus far on the fiscal cliff in which President Barack Obama presented Congress with his terms, Boehner and Congressional Republicans responded with a counter-offer, which Obama took into account, made some concessions and presented a second plan.
Rather than offer a coherent response to the president's plan, though, Boehner unveiled "Plan B," an extravagant and ultimately impracticable wish-list of conservative demands. This sent the House Republican caucus into complete chaos and left us where we stand today, with the president's counter-offer left unanswered by Congress, and House Republicans fighting amongst themselves before turning off the lights and leaving for the Christmas break.
Watch the clip, embedded via MSNBC, below: