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What I wonder is if this current dust-up between Rove and the Tea Party is not about the long struggle for the heart of conservatism but whether it is symptomatic of how conservatives handle defeat. They seem ever-full of piss and vinegar, so spats are not new. And given the erratic pace of how changes in political climate occur, perhaps this is not a new front in a unending war, but a reflex built from the habit of warring.
I say this because how many times have we seen conservatives threaten a giant hissy over this and that, then when the "airing of grievances" is done, they move on to the next conspiracy they believe is ruining America (like feeding hungry children). For conservatives, every day is Festivus.
A less contemptuous view, which is hard to muster, is that as a stage of grieving, conservatives are just starting to get past shock/denial and pain/guilt and moving into anger/bargaining. Of course, this is not uniform, so there are plenty who cannot get past denial. The point that they get to real acceptance of the demographic and value shift in the electorate, then a fight begins over the future of conservatism in earnest.
So it may not be what it seems to be. It could be part of the emotional process of a people who, collectively, exhibit very little emotional development (like impulse control).
This is not to say tensions between purists and pragmatists are not at issue, but whether this moment really marks a new internal war, that I am skeptical about. I need to see real strategic actions among conservatives that affect the political futures of one faction of Republicans versus another before I believe that. The purists have been ascendent, now they have lost, and the air is tense because "what next" is unclear. Rove trying to fill the dead space is as much about opportunism as it is about an actual front in conservative intra-party conflict.