Just for comic relief, let’s move our mental political map from Iowa back to Washington. Just when we thought it was safe to shut down on D.C. for a month or so, Republicans in the House have delivered the president and his party an early Christmas gift by blocking the temporary extension of the payroll tax deduction.

Passing the Senate by an overwhelming majority and praised by Speaker John Boehner, House Republicans rejected the Senate bill, saying that a temporary extension only highlights the absurd impotence of Washington’s governing. Maybe so, but the alternative is a tax increase that any fair analysis would conclude is the result of the House action. Bad process, good result always beats bad process, bad result.

I grant that opinions are so negative against the political process that not too many people will take the time to finger the guilty party. But some will, and it fits a story-line that the media is on to: the Republican House is controlled by a small group of dedicated Tea Party members. I felt empathy for the Speaker yesterday as he tried to make chicken salad out of the mess handed him. This handful of mostly freshmen has demonstrably blocked progress on the twin challenges facing the country: economic recovery and deficit reduction. And they’ve become a useful new foil for President Obama. Like all zealots, they claim a purity and a higher purpose that resonates with their little slice of followers. But I now believe, sooner rather than later, Americans will dump the Tea Party.