Four highly visible Republicans appeared on the political talk shows Sunday talking about the split threatening the party between moderates and conservatives.
What I heard were two divergent themes: Rebuilding the party to win elections vs. purging the ranks to retain only the concepts endorsed by conservatives.
One theme trumpets the future. The other is playing taps.
Give credit to Colin Powell and Tom Ridge for bucking the shrill voices of the far right. They have the good fortune of being private citizens and have no fear of seeking reelection as do the Republican leaders face in Congress and bow to the oracles of Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney.
Karl Rove said Powell and Ridge should prove themselves Republicans by putting up or shutting up.
Newt Gingrich, who is deluding others he may be a presidential candidate in 2012, cautioned conservatives for using litmus tests to drive the party to the smallest base possible.
What we have here is an argument for a viable political party in a two-party system and a movement which takes no prisoners, controls its base followers and owns the loudest, shrillest voices.
What amazes me is that all conservatives believe Ronald Reagan was the guiding light, the savior of Republicans. Yet they violate Reagan's principle that the party should cast the largest net possible.
Republican conservatives are on the road to the cemetery where the Whig, Progressive, Libertarian and Green parties are buried.
Despite themselves, the Republican Party will return to power. It won't be on the battlefield of ideas we hear today.
It will be failures which are bound to happen by the Democrats.
And when that day comes, we can look back and admire the wisdom of Ralph Nader, our nation's most infamous third party candidate. He said you can't tell the difference between the Republicans and Democrats.
That's politics, folks. And, yes, I'm a cynic.