They are beginning to resemble the bar scene from Star Wars,” said Democratic strategist Peter Fenn in POLITICO’s Arena, referring to the GOP candidates this year. “They are purging the conservative voices in their party who have any sort of pragmatic perspective and substituting true kooks.”

The Republican party is self-destructing, and they may well take a livable climate with them. While the rise of the Tea Party is probably good for progressive politicians, the extreme radicalization of one of the two major parties has major downsides for Homo “sapiens” sapiens.

The Tea Party has probably cost the GOP a serious shot at the Senate this year. It should cost the GOP the House, but that would require the country’s progressive political leaders to be much better at messaging than they are. In the future, if the GOP can’t dump or seriously diminish the Tea Party, it will probably make it all but untenable for them to maintain majorities, except in very bad economic times.

Even Politico, in its banner story on the election, spelled out the obvious winning message:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

… the Delaware results gave Democrats fresh ammunition to make the case that the Republican Party had been taken over by extremists.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

In effect, Democrats now can counter the GOP’s attempt to nationalize the election around the unpopular policies of the administration and Congress by pointing to such figures as O’Donnell, Nevada’s Sharron Angle and Kentucky’s Rand Paul and asking voters if that’s the Republican Party they want to return to power.

Tea party extremists backed by Big Oil and corporate polluters want to stop and then reverse all efforts to advance clean energy or avoid catastrophic global warming.

Tea party extremists backed by Big Oil and the special interest polluters oppose efforts to preserve clean air and clean water for your children. They oppose all policies to end our addiction to oil. As Senate GOP candidate Rand Paul explains the Tea Party theory of governance:  “I believe business should be left alone from government.” Senate GOP candidate Sharron Angle builds on that Tea Party platform with her energy plan: Deregulate the ‘mining industry,’ as well as the ‘oil and petroleum industry.’

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Tea party extremists backed by Big Oil and the special interest polluters want to shut down the federal government, thereby closing our national parks, abandoning those veterans most in need, preventing oversight of offshore drilling and coal mines, and stopping research into cancer cures and solar energy.

Who can say otherwise? Nobody speaks for them nationally — except maybe Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

Last night, a candidate so extreme that the head of the state party has called her a “delusional liar” and said she “could not be elected dog catcher” — an anti-masturbation candidate so extreme, Karl Rove (!) told Sean Hannity that she says “nutty things’ — beat a guy in the Republican Senate primary in Delaware who was twice governor of the state. And this after the GOP got her former campaign manager to charge her with corruption.

She is going to lose, and I suspect that the uber-vulnerable Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is going to beat Sharron Angle, another extremist, though that election will be close.

But in the future, if the GOP can’t get out from underneath the thumb of the Tea Party, ultra-extreme Republican candidates will face mainstream progressives, when the general political environment is not so poisonous for Democrats. And the 2012 nomination process for the GOP challenger to Obama will be fraught with land mines for non-wackos.

So the Tea Party represents the GOP’s continuing slide into permanent minority status, the party of angry, Caucasian extremists who mainly succeed in bad economic times or when Democrats put up lame nominees who are dreadful at messaging (yes, that happens too frequently).

That said, The New York Times (!) blogger Nate Silver says Republicans have a “2-in-3 chance” of taking the House — though they are, as of now, quite unlikely to take the Senate (even as they drop the Democratic total down to 52 or 53).

While I respect Silver’s election forecasting ability greatly, his political punditry strikes me is no better than average. He thinks “Undoubtedly, in my view, the Tea Party has done the party more good than harm over the past year-and-a-half, bringing it back from what pundits assumed was the brink of irrelevance (but may instead just have been the nadir of a political cycle), to a position where they are poised to make electoral gains that could rival or exceed 1994.” I think there is much to doubt about that assertion. Republicans were always going to come back (given the multiple mistakes Team Obama made) and be more enthusiastic than Democrats — but now they are represented by multiple unadulterated extremists and have no party unity.

Silver believes that independents can’t be moved at this point and that the Democratic base is unlikely to rally. This is probably true (especially the former) — not because it is a foregone conclusion, however, but because Obama and the progressive leadership of this country don’t know how to do messaging, to define the Republican Party as driven by extremists who are backed by Big Oil and the special interest polluters, who support policies far, far outside the mainstream. Yes, I know, the Washington, D.C. Republican establishment was already in the pocket of Big Oil and the special interest polluters — but nobody was claiming that they were a genuine grassroots movement, as the Tea Party has been alleged to be.

The grim future of climate and energy policy

As far back as January 2009, long before there ever was a Tea Party, I had said that while Obama’s election and his climate and energy team were 2008’s top climate story, the second was “Conservatives go all in on climate denial and delay.”

Back in July of this year, I discussed the dwindling chances for any serious action in the next few years on a planet where:

  1. Senate Republicans are in the thrall of the anti-science, pro-pollution ideologues and special interests.
  2. The media coverage of climate science, solutions, and economics is so abysmal.
  3. The president won’t give a full-throated push on such legislation.

So what has changed?

With the loss of Mike Castle in Delaware, every single GOP Senate candidate now either denies climate science or opposes even the most moderate, business friendly, Republican-designed approach to reducing emissions. More importantly, the main difference now (with Castle’s loss and Lisa Murkowski’s) is that all potential Republican candidates for Senate — and all incumbents — no matter how safe they thought their seats were — know they must either drink the anti-science, pro-pollution Kool-aid or pretend to do so.

So when precisely will there be 60 votes for a price on carbon, serious regulation of carbon or even major investment in clean energy? This isn’t a galaxy far, far away. It is planet Eaarth.