“For some time now Frank Rich, Sam Tanenhaus and countless others (including David Frum) have been arguing that the GOP is a rump party and the only way for it to survive is for it to embrace me-too Republicanism of one flavor or another. The story of all three major races (VA, NJ, and NY-23) is that this conventional wisdom was incandescently wrong and ill-advised… The GOP is an unapologetically conservative party, providing a choice not an echo, and — horror of horrors — it’s working.”

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“The more rightists who win G.O.P. primaries, the greater the Democrats’ prospects next year. But the electoral math is less interesting than the pathology of this movement. Its antecedent can be found in the early 1960s, when radical-right hysteria carried some of the same traits we’re seeing now: seething rage, fear of minorities, maniacal contempt for government, and a Freudian tendency to mimic the excesses of political foes. Writing in 1964 of that era’s equivalent to today’s tea party cells, the historian Richard Hofstadter observed that the John Birch Society’s ‘ruthless prosecution’ of its own ideological war often mimicked the tactics of its Communist enemies.

“The same could be said of Beck, Palin and their acolytes. Though they constantly liken the president to various totalitarian dictators, it is they who are re-enacting Stalinism in full purge mode.”

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“But other conservatives say the problem in both the New York contest and hampering Republicans more broadly is the tendency of GOP establishment leaders in Washington to get behind moderate candidates out of fear a purist conservative can’t win a general election.

“‘Hmmm, I thought the Era of Reagan was over?’ conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO. ‘Who was it that said that? Oh yeah, the smart people on our side who told us the only way we could win was with moderate-liberal candidates like Scozzafava.’…

“‘I think it will empower tea party activists’ to look for moderate scalps in other districts, fretted one senior GOP strategist with national campaign experience. ‘The question is, Will we go through a period in the party where a great purge begins?’ this strategist asked. ‘If it spreads into that, this will be a very bad day.’

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“The truth is that some conservatives are as bloody-minded and intolerant of all dissent as the hard left is at the Daily Kos. A majority political party requires a far more diverse coalition than the audience for your average right-wing blogger or talk show host. Some of those voices prefer having Democrats in power because it drives up their own ratings.

“Democrats did themselves no favors by driving Joe Lieberman out of their party, and conservatives will do their cause no good by forcing GOP candidates in Illinois, California and Connecticut to sound like Tom DeLay. If conservatives now revolt against every GOP candidate who disagrees with them on trade, immigration or abortion, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will keep their majorities for a very long time.”

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WALLACE: Lucille Golman sent this question, “Did you vote for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election?”

RUSH: I did.

WALLACE: Really?

RUSH: Of course.

WALLACE: But you’ve been so critical of John McCain.

RUSH: Yes, but you weigh the two. I don’t think — there are a lot of people, Chris, that are saying there’s no difference in two parties. I know a lot of people think that, and they’re — and they really, really believe it.

But I don’t know of any Republican who would try to take over one-sixth of the U.S. economy. I don’t know one Republican who would put forth this — this irresponsible cap and trade bill. I don’t know one Republican who would actually do that as something he initiated.

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