To the Editor:
Lost in the talk of the leverage that 40 or so Tea Party Republicans have in the House of Representatives is the fact that their success depends on their being part of a larger majority (at least 218) of Republicans in the 435-member House. So, the ultimate political influence question is not whether those 40 Tea Party members come from safe seats that guarantee their re-election. The real point is that those 40 can only be an effective force if at least another 178 more-moderate Republicans (218 minus 40) are re-elected in 2014.
In other words, if the acknowledged damage done to the GOP by the shutdown and the threat of debt default leaves the GOP in January 2015 with fewer than 218 members (spread among both moderate and extreme), then the speakership will go to the Democrats, and 40, 50 or 60 "safe-seat" Tea Party members will be unable to stifle Democratic legislation. It is the loss of those not-so-safe-seat GOP members that will neutralize the Tea Party minority.
The radical right has thus ignored the obvious fact that the umbrella party need lose no more than 19 seats in the autumn 2014 congressional elections to lose its majority in the House and, thus, its entire power to obstruct. In its own self-interest, that wing of the GOP should be moderating its behavior in the name of simple self-preservation.