[The Washington Post]

If you can judge people by the quality of their enemies, one quality shared by many opponents of the tea party is their conservatism. Like many ideological factions, tea-party activists display a special intensity in fighting the “near enemy” — other elements on the right that don’t share their tactics. President Obama may be their ultimate foe, but conservative pragmatists are their rivals. And rivals are the more immediate problem.

So the Senate Conservatives Fund runs ads against Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and other solid Senate conservatives for opposing a counterproductive strategy to defund Obamacare. The circle of tea-party purity is drawn so tightly that it excludes Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) — some of the most reliably conservative members of Congress.

Ideological conflict between Republican factions is, of course, nothing new. The modern conservative movement arose in opposition to Eisenhower Republicanism, which it regarded as ideologically compromised. Ronald Reagan challenged and defeated Rockefeller Republicanism — and seldom has a political defeat been more complete. But Reagan still viewed the Republican Party as a coalition, not as a faction. He campaigned vigorously for Republican moderates such as Sens. Chuck Percy, Robert Packwood and Mark Hatfield (who was the congressional chair for his first inauguration).

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