How long can the Republican party endure the civil war that is raging between tea party conservatives and mainstream conservatives? It doesn’t take a genius to know that when a political party is split between its factions, its chances of winning an election diminish accordingly. Congressional Republicans are expending their energy on internal battles, not the least of which pits Ted Cruz against John Cornyn. In the meantime, much of the infrastructure of the party is atrophying. In particular, the Heritage Foundation, once the intellectual foundation of the Republican party, has diminished in stature. The elevation of Jim DeMint to the leadership of the foundation has had the effect of raising politics to the core concern of the foundation (as opposed to policy, the Heritage Foundation’s traditional specialty).Remarkably, it is increasingly clear that Ted Cruz is driving the Republican party these days, a circumstance that will surely spill over into Texas politics and will likely result in internal fights that will lead to conservative jihads against moderate Republicans, in Texas and in Washington, and perhaps among Republicans nationally. If Cruz continues to be the darling of the far right, he has a solid shot at winning the Republican presidential nomination, a result that would cement the party’s reputation as extremist. His main competitor is likely to be Rand Paul, and I don’t think Paul has the intellectual heft to compete with Cruz. The lingering question that should concern all Republicans is whether the tea party and the Republican party can coexist. Huffington Post‘s Howard Fineman, channeling TV’s “Breaking Bad,” calls the tea party types “Blue Meth Republicans,” a reference to their never-ending search for absolute purity. The party of Ronald Reagan and the Bush dynasty no longer exists. The tea party has killed it.

AP Photo | Jacquelyn Martin