The ripping noise you just heard was the rending of the Republican fabric.

Waking up to reality (finally), and realizing that a government shutdown coupled with a debt default would be disastrous for America's bottom line (finally), the GOP's big business heavyweights are bailing on the House extremists with all deliberate speed. How refreshing it is, in the midst of this manufactured crisis, to get some good news.

Granted, these are the same big business heavies who bankrolled the House extremists in the first place - they helped craft the Frankenstein, as it were - so it's amusing to watch them cut and run. But at least they've (finally) recoiled in horror at what they wrought. In today's politics, that counts as progress.

Take the billionaire Koch brothers, for instance. They're suddenly insisting that they had no role whatsoever in the plot against America, the daft strategy of crashing the government until President Obama surrendered his health reform law. In a letter to Congress yesterday, a corporate flak insisted that even though Team Koch still hates Obamacare, it "has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing (budget) resolution to defunding Obamacare, nor have we lobbied on legislative positions defunding Obamacare."

Translation: The brothers are throwing the extremists under the bus, claiming that their own hands are clean.

Their new stance is disingenuous, to put it charitably. Their non-profit advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, has close ties to the shutdown agitators, especially Senator Ted Cruz. The brothers also gave half a million bucks to Heritage Action, the Jim DeMint political vehicle that has championed the shutdown over Obamacare. Heritage used the Koch money to pressure the House Republicans to "attach legislation to defund Obamacare to a 'must pass' spending bill" - precisely the tactic that Team Koch now says it had no role in promoting.

Hypocrisy? Of course. But at least they realize that the ginned-up crisis could taint them. Ideological agitation is apparently fine - but not to the point where it hurts their corporate bottom line. NBC News reported yesterday that Team Koch has privately warned lawmakers that a debt default would be an economic "disaster." That's a polite way of telling the GOP extremists that it's time to knock it off.

Similarly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -  which in 2010 pumped millions into state Republican legislative races, so that the winners would create safe congressional districts for today's House extremists - is suddenly changing its tune. Lobbyist Bruce Josten reportedly said yesterday that the typical shutdown fanatic is not a good fit for the Chamber: "What we want is a conservative business person, but someone who in many respects is more realistic."

The National Retail Federation is also big on realism. It told Congress yesterday that the shutdown is already hurting the consumer economy - people are spending less, stories are taking a hit - and therefore, "We strongly support passage of both a continuing resolution to provide for funding of the federal government into the next fiscal year, and a measure to raise the nation's debt ceiling."

Or, in plain English, "Enough is enough."

To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, a party divided against itself cannot stand. You know the GOP is in trouble if even Team Koch thinks the extremists have cooties. In the absence of unity, it's hard to see how they can succeed in their mission of hurling America over the cliff. Indeed, "Republican party leaders, activists and donors now widely acknowledge that the effort to kill President Obama’s signature initiative by hitting the brakes on the government has been a failure. (Obamacare) has largely disappeared from their calculus as they look for a way out of the impasse over the shutdown, and for a way to avoid a possible default."

When the big business paymasters begin to bail, it's time to get sane. And if they're not a sufficient motivator, perhaps this new report from Gallup will be the wakeup call. It measures the political impact of the shutdown. It speaks for itself:

"The Republican party is now viewed favorably by 28 percent of Americans, down from 38 percent in September. This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992."

The question today is whether the minority of the minority party intends to sink the GOP even further. After all, records are made to be broken.

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