As internal GOP recriminations mount, frustrated incumbent Republicans who had been holding on just to see a return to majority status would begin heading for the exits. Beginning in a trickle, Republican retirements would soon pick up speed as lawmakers look to move on to greener pastures. (These retirements alone would seriously hurt Republican chances to retake majorities in 2012 and subsequent elections.)
But, as important as all of these consequences would be, a Republican failure this year would have even an even far-reaching significance: it likely would call into question the GOP's entire longstanding strategy of obstruction.
Almost since the day he took office, Republicans have stood shoulder-to-shoulder, nearly unanimously trying to stand in the way of even the most modest of President Obama's initiatives. They have done this out of calculation that if they thwart progress — and deny the Democratic president credit for success — they will frustrate voters. That frustration, Republican thinking goes, would then compel voters back into the GOP camp.
But, in our potential scenario, that thinking would have failed to produce the majorities Republicans crave. And, given how central pure obstruction has been for their political game, I don't think it could be underestimated how damaging it would be to the GOP should it fail.
In other words, I'm not sure Republicans would know what other cards to play. A failure of obstruction to win back a majority would cause a massive crisis of confidence inside the GOP.
That crisis of confidence for Republicans only would be amplified should Obama see any uptick in his approval ratings, for even an incremental improvement in the economy.
Quite simply, Republicans' spirits would be broken.
All of that would provide them a new incentive, one to cooperate even somewhat more with Obama and the Democrats, which in turn, could improve the prospects for such stalled initiatives as climate legislation and immigration reform.
All of this is enough to put a smile on nearly any progressive's face.
And, hopefully, it also is enough to get them out and voting in November.