It used to be standard practice for the leaders of the opposition to say, upon the inauguration of a new president, that they hoped he would succeed. It may not have been sincere, but it was considered good form to publicly wish for peace and prosperity even if the other party would get the credit.

We don’t pretend that anymore, though when prominent political figures come right out and say they hope things go wrong for the country, it’s still news. But having gone through eight years out of power only recently, the Republican Party is a machine built for sabotage. That machine is now firing on all cylinders and at every level of government.

Consider some items from the day’s news.

In Missouri, a federal district court judge appointed by Donald Trump has blocked a Biden administration order requiring staff in health-care facilities funded by Medicare and Medicaid to be vaccinated against covid-19. You might think that if any group of workers should be subject to such a mandate it would be this one, but for opponents of this administration, any mandate is the spearpoint of totalitarian tyranny.

The judge’s order reads like an article on a conservative website, dismissing the reasons the government gives for requiring vaccines in health-care facilities as arbitrary and unconvincing while treating every worker’s objection to the mandate as though it requires the utmost deference.

That order covers 10 states that filed this lawsuit; more Republican-run states will probably join them. Which brings us to the second story of the day, in which The Post reports that Republicans at the state level, working with right-wing advocacy groups, are preparing to resist the expansion of pre-K that the Build Back Better bill would provide.

This is possible because, like many such programs, this one would send billions of dollars to states which they can use to expand their own existing programs. This makes a certain amount of policy sense, since all but a few states already have state-funded pre-K programs (though spots are often limited) in addition to federally funded Head Start. It’s easier to send money through existing programs than to build something new.

But the experience of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion shows us that Republicans are perfectly happy to turn down huge amounts of federal money that would provide tremendous benefit to their own citizens, their own budgets and their own state economies, if doing so provides the opportunity to give a giant middle finger to a Democratic president.

The fact that many conservative states have established comprehensive pre-K doesn’t mean they won’t rebel against the BBB expansion if the bill passes. Republicans have also shown that when a previously nonpartisan issue offers an opportunity to create politicization and division, they’ll turn on a dime and decide that something they used to support is now the very embodiment of communist oppression. Like, say, vaccines.

These stories show Republicans using (or planning to use) courts and state-level political power to sabotage not just the administration’s specific policy goals but also its larger goal of improving Americans’ lives by doing things even Republicans claim they want, i.e. ending the pandemic and giving children a good start in life. But that’s just part of the program of sabotage.

On the pandemic, conservatives are using every means at their disposal, particularly their media outlets, to convince their base that vaccines are both medically useless (if not outright deadly) and something every freedom-loving person must resist; comparisons to Nazism when vaccines come up are now common not just on the fringe but also on Fox News. The GOP is in effect using its own supporters as cannon fodder in a campaign to keep the country from ending the pandemic; the proportion of Trump voters in an area is now a strong predictor of how many people there have died from covid-19.

When they aren’t using their megaphones to prolong the pandemic, Republicans are working to create inflation panic, so a genuine but manageable problem can be seen as the crisis of the century. They can’t make prices go higher, but they can affect how people feel about it with a stream of hyperbole and ludicrous claims, which is almost as good.

And of course, Republicans in Congress are working not just to obstruct the Democratic policies they disagree with, but also to keep the government from functioning, whether it’s threatening a default on the nation’s debt or using senatorial privilege to leave America without confirmed ambassadors to most foreign countries.

Where does this all end? The answer is, it doesn’t. Some GOP sabotage efforts will be more successful than others, and the most important question for Biden (and all of us) is how long it takes to get the pandemic under control. We might succeed in that goal, just as inflation is likely to fade. But every new infection, every policy hindered, every uptick in inflation, every voter convinced that things in America just aren’t working right, is a victory in the Republican project.

So they’ll keep trying to sabotage Biden — even if it means sabotaging the country — until his last day in office. It’s what they’re best at.