Republicans’ embrace of conspiracy theories, election denial, vaccine mandate opposition and, frankly, nihilism pose real threats to our democracy and to the health of Americans. But just because Republicans delight in “owning the libs” does not mean their behavior helps them politically. To the contrary, Democrats may well make hay out of Republican trail of chaos.

Indeed, part of the lesson of the California recall is that spotlighting Republicans’ extremism is a winner for Democrats. At times it seemed as if California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) was running against Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (and his abortion bounty law) and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis (and his insistence on banning lifesaving vaccine and mask requirements).

Republicans and their media surrogates are quick to point out that California is a deep-blue state, but GOP extremism on these issues certainly motivated Democrats to turn out — something Newsom’s campaign worried about for months. There is nothing like the specter of misogynistic antiabortion policy or Republicans’ willful refusal to fight a deadly pandemic to engage the Democratic base. Moreover, in stressing these issues, Democrats do nothing to alienate independents or sane Republicans. To the contrary, there are broad coalitions in favor of mask and vaccine mandates and against spying on and harassing women seeking an abortion.

Plus, Republicans remain invested in deadly vaccine resistance. The New York Times’s David Leonhardt points out, “The political divide over vaccinations is so large that almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state.” In other words, the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is quickly becoming the “pandemic of people unfortunate enough to live in red states with MAGA governors.” Even in Republican states, voters in 2022 gubernatorial races could well decide that they want responsible leaders who solve problems rather than exacerbate them.

In a similar vein, the Senate GOP has gone all in with its embrace of economic self-destruction and obstruction. In their unanimous refusal on Monday to raise the debt ceiling, they put themselves on the side of fiscal Armageddon, not “conservatism” or any other responsible philosophy of governance. As Majority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) put it, “What the Republicans in the Senate did . . . is not normal. This isn’t your typical Washington fracas, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. It has far more severe consequences than the typical political catfight.”

The Post reports that the GOP’s antics “could cause severe financial calamity, the White House has warned, potentially plunging the United States into another recession.” Republicans apparently do not care. They refuse to take responsibility for preserving a functional economy, just as they refuse to maintain a functional health-care system in which intensive care units are available for patients who are not needlessly suffering from covid-19.

Finally, the Republican Party has become a menace on national security. David Rothkopf recently wrote for the Daily Beast: “If an enemy of the United States wanted to decapitate America’s national security leadership, they could hardly do a better job of it than Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have by blocking scores of top nominees, leaving critical positions unfilled by the men and women the president of the United States has selected for those jobs.” Rothkopf points out that only 26 percent of high-level national security posts have been confirmed. “To put this into perspective, the 9/11 Commission cited the fact that only 57 percent of such positions were filled as of Sept. 11, 2001 as a source of vulnerability that urgently needed to be corrected,” Rothkopf notes. These Republicans court disaster and imperil day-to-day management of our national defense. They will own any lapses that result from their obstructionism.

Even Democrats — who are often loath to sound “too negative” or to use blunt language instead of complex policy arguments — should be able to figure out a campaign message for 2022. Republicans are neither conservative in economic outlook (look at the business community’s reaction to the debt ceiling standoff) nor pro-life (consider the innocent life they put at risk in their management of the pandemic). They fail to put the country’s national security above partisan politics. Theirs is a radical, reckless and revanchist party — one far too dangerous to trust with power. Call it the “Chaos Party,” a term that will remind suburban voters and college-educated voters why they fled the GOP in 2020.

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