I think Ross Douthat is right about this and the much-hyped conservative infighting has actually been extremely tame. I think he’s further correct to say that this is probably a bad thing for the movement. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a good intra-party fight. It doesn’t need to be a fight to the death, but I think something like the Iraq hawk/dove fights of the past several years had a useful impact on progressive politics. The issue was never “resolved” as such and people on both sides of the divide are still in the coalition. But the balance of power was renegotiated, some key players switched sides, and ultimately a standard-bearer with a different kind of record rose to the fore.
I was about to type that those kind of disputes are a sign of strength rather than weakness, but I’m not sure that’s quite right. Rather, the point is just that it’s a helpful exercise that ultimate serves to clarify things and give different elements a chance to rise in prominence rather than just endlessly being stuck with the same old thing. Indeed, I think one problem with Ross’s Grand New Party is that it seemed to lack the vividly drawn intra-party villains that a good intra-party fight requires.