EVERYONE HAS A ROLE TO PLAY…. When Republicans were running the show in DC, it was obviously a rather pathetic sight. The problem wasn’t just with the GOP proposals — though they were, to be sure, a complete mess — but with the Republicans’ inability to actually govern the country. It quickly became apparent, especially in 2005 and 2006, that being in the majority and holding positions of power doesn’t play to Republicans’ strengths — it requires them to exercise power effectively. That’s just not what the GOP does.

But it occurs to me, watching the debate over the economic stimulus package the last few weeks, that Republicans are not without talents. Indeed, I’d argue GOP lawmakers are right where they need to be to play to their strengths. They’re not good at governing, but they’re exceptional at stopping others from governing. They don’t have what it takes to be a functioning majority party, but they’re a finely-tuned machine when it comes to working as an obstructionist opposition party, blocking good ideas, manipulating news outlets, and misleading the public.

Indeed, in the midst of a global economic calamity, Republicans are walking around with their heads held high, despite chronic unpopularity, a lack of political authority, no policy agenda, and a record of abject failure. Why? Because they’re doing exactly what they do best.

Josh Marshall noted this afternoon:

Behind all the back and forth over the Stimulus Bill is a simple fact: the debate in Washington is rapidly moving away from any recognition that the US economy — and the global economy, for that matter — is in free-fall. The range of outcomes stretches from severe recession to something closer to a replay of the Great Depression, though that label is perhaps better seen as a placeholder for ‘catastrophic economic collapse’ since the underlying place of the US economy in the world economy is very different from what it was in 1929. This reality was palpable in the political debate until as recently as a few weeks ago. But Republicans are using a strategy of conscious denial to push it off the stage.

That’s clearly true. But ask yourself: would Democrats in Congress, with the smallest minority in a generation, be able to pull that off? Would they have any chance of pitting a Republican White House against a Republican Congress? Could they block a rescue plan with a 41-seat Senate caucus? Of course not. In general, Democrats want to govern. They want responsibility. They want to consider the evidence and shape policy accordingly. But there’s simply no way in the world the Democratic Party could pull off a scheme on par with the one Republicans are pulling now. It’s damn impressive.

In the midst of an economic crisis, the GOP and its allies have convinced a whole lot of people that the only sensible recovery plan is a bad idea. The minority party has not only persuaded news outlets to give them airtime to spew this obviously-ridiculous nonsense, they’ve also convinced a lot of media figures that they’re right.

It’s pretty extraordinary. What’s more, it’s evidence that Republicans have finally found what exactly they’re good at.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.