The raging debate over who should lead the Republican Party isn't the only passionate argument on the right.
While partisans argue about the relative virtues of Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, columnists, writers and bloggers have been slugging it out about the future of conservatism.
Such exchanges aren't unusual when one side's party is out of power, especially given the degree to which the GOP controls none of the levers of power these days except ye olde filibuster threat. Lefties argued over the future of liberalism for what seemed like a zillion years while the Democrats wandered in the wilderness, and afterward as well.
The split on the right first became apparent during the Bush years, especially in the second term, when some of those devoted to limited government were appalled by the burgeoning spending and some who had backed the Iraq invasion were disgusted by its bungling.
The divide deepened during last year's campaign when some of the right's most prominent writers and talkers revolted over John McCain's choice of Palin. A few intellectuals such as Christopher Buckley even announced they were voting for Barack Obama.
The dawn of the Obama era might have erased some of these fissures, but the arguments, at least in some quarters, seem to be getting louder. What might seem like a writerly squabble is, to some, a battle for the soul of a movement.
Andrew Sullivan, former New Republic editor, former Time and Washington Post columnist, now with the Atlantic, came to prominence a decade ago as one of the earliest conservative bloggers. But by 2008 he was an unabashed supporter of Obama. He addresses his evolution, and that of the GOP:
"There has to come a point at which a movement or party so abandons core principles or degenerates into such a rhetorical septic system that you have to take a stand. It seems to me that now is a critical time for more people whose principles lie broadly on the center-right to do so -- against the conservative degeneracy in front of us. Those who have taken such a stand -- to one degree or other -- demand respect. And this blog, while maintaining its resistance to cliquishness, has been glad to link to writers as varied as Bruce Bartlett or David Frum or David Brooks or Steve Chapman or Kathleen Parker or Conor Friedersdorf or Jim Manzi or Jeffrey Hart or Daniel Larison who have broken ranks in some way or other.
"I can't claim the same courage as these folks because I've always been fickle in partisan terms. To have supported Reagan and Bush and Clinton and Dole and Bush and Kerry and Obama suggests I never had a party to quit. I think that may be because I wasn't born here. I have no deep loyalty to either American party in my bones or family or background, and admire presidents from both parties. My partisanship remains solely British -- I'm a loyal Tory. . . .
"For these reasons, I found it intolerable after 2003 to support the movement that goes by the name 'conservative' in America. I still do, even though I am much more of a limited government type than almost any Democrat and cannot bring myself to call myself a liberal (because I'm not). . .
"I cannot support a movement that so abandoned government's minimal and vital role to police markets and address natural disasters that it gave us Katrina and the financial meltdown of 2008.
"I cannot support a movement that holds torture as a core value.
"I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.
"I cannot support a movement that is deeply homophobic, cynically deploys fear of homosexuals to win votes, and gives off such a racist vibe that its share of the minority vote remains pitiful. . . .
"I cannot support a movement that would back a vice-presidential candidate manifestly unqualified and duplicitous because of identity politics and electoral cynicism.
"I cannot support a movement that regards gay people as threats to their own families.
"I cannot support a movement that does not accept evolution as a fact.
"I cannot support a movement that sees climate change as a hoax and offers domestic oil exploration as the core plank of an energy policy.
"I cannot support a movement that refuses ever to raise taxes, while proposing no meaningful reductions in government spending.
"I cannot support a movement that refuses to distance itself from a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh or a nutjob like Glenn Beck."
I'd say he made his point, wouldn't you?
Sullivan was inspired by Charles Johnson, also an early conservative blogger with his site Little Green Footballs. He also announces his political divorce, citing:
"Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)