From time to time I hear that the Republican Party is doomed. Either the Tea Party will destroy it, or it will collapse for lack of backbone and principle. I don't think so. Only time will tell, but here's what I can see from my perch.
The real problem is not in the Republican Party, but in the Democratic Party. In his watershed address A Time For Choosing, Ronald Reagan called out the many Democrats, among them himself, who discovered that the Democratic Party no longer represented the ideals and principles that it advertised. This schism has only grown deeper. The old Blue Dogs are gone, and their replacements, the Joe Manchins and the Scott Browns, would like to break with the Party leadership on issues, even as they want to retain the strength of the leadership.
That leadership is run by Old Socialists of varying degrees of honesty, commitment, and vitriol. But outside the major coastal centers, the urban rust belt, and DC beltway, Democratic legislators and executives represent what Walter Russell Mead calls The Blue Social Model. Even in those places, Blue Model Democrats (like Scott Brown) are sometimes preferred over Socialists (and Republicans). The schism between the Hard Left and the Blue-Modellers could be papered over so long as nobody was willing to call them out, either on principles or on the collapse of the Blue Model.
The Republican Party is also split, but the split is not on what its principles are, but on how important they are. The Old Guard wants, to varying degrees, to keep the wheels of the legislatures turning, and they were prepared to make some concessions to the Democrats. But what they have been doing for years now, what is only now visible to the vast majority of us rubes at the voting booths, is that the GOP concessions have not been about bridging the gap between Republican and Democrat; it has been about papering over the divisions in the Democratic Party.
Enter the Tea Party Movement, which is kicking out the Republicans who have been feeding unnatural life into the Democratic Party chimera. This isn't a schism; it's the basic demand that Republicans attend to the work for which they were elected, rather than keeping alive the Party that opposes them. The Tea Party movement isn't destroying the GOP; it's bringing it back to its foundation. Anyone who splinters off was already dedicated, intentionally or not, to preserving the Democratic Party, not to preserving the country by adherence to Republican Party principles.
The GOP fault lines are between the Party's core, as represented by its principles, and its execution, as represented by too many of its members (and some of its principals). The fault lines in the Donkey Party run right through its heart: which principles does it really represent?
Either party could be destroyed. But if the current pressures and trends continue, the GOP will grow stronger and the Democratic Party will either be sundered or will marginalize the hard-core Socialist Vitriolics. I would prefer it be sundered, not out of joy in its destruction, but because marginalizing the Socialists will not keep them from drawing sustenance from the party coffers and succor from the party machinery.
Legend has it that the pioneer of gold coinage, King Croesus of Lydia, consulted the Oracle at Delphi about invading Persia. He was told "If you invade Persia, you willl destroy a great empire." Croesus destroyed a great empire, but it was not Persia. Croesus was defeated and the Greek world was forever changed. The GOP may now hold the position of Persia, but only so long as the Tea Party continues to infuse it with new, tannin-laced resolve.