Another positive feedback loop looks like it is forming now as the Republican Party is becoming more conservative and institutionally more inward seeking. Political Wire is reporting that more marginal Republicans are retiring from marginal districts:
Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN), who announced his retirement on Monday, is the third moderate "middle-of-the-road Republican to announce plans to leave the House in 2008," reports Roll Call. And Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL), "another centrist, is expected to announce his retirement in the coming days."
"Coupled with the loss of more than a half-dozen swing-seat Members in the 2006 elections, the retirements of several moderates so far this cycle could be the start of an alarming trend for the House GOP."
Combine these retirements with expected strong challenges in the few remaining Northeast Republican seats, the non-Southern, non-movement conservative caucus in the 2009 Congress looks to be miniscule. The internal dynamics will produce leadership elections of hard liners and bomb throwers for a couple of cycles, marginalizing the party nationally and further increasing the institutional power of resource extraction, social and political reactionaries within their own caucus. The Democrats don't have to do much for this short to intermediate term mechanism to play out; run non-corrupt candidates in the Northeast, resist the urge for meaningless and toothless compromise for compromise's sake (compromise when there is a good idea to grab of course) and don't whisper '1984 or 1986 too much' when the Dems started to realign their electoral coalitions.