George Lakoff wrote in Don’t Think of an Elephant that the Republican Party has (traditionally) been better at appearing cohesive from the outside despite existing inner turmoil. Republican groups with different agendas would work together with the understanding that the needs of all would eventually be met if groups waited their turn. This election cycle knocked down the wall around the Republicans, exposing their infighting, weaknesses and the last gasps of a party on life support.
I would add here that George W. Bush isn’t good at much, but one ability he certainly has is unifying power among the factions of the GOP. The free-market fundamentalists, the evangelicals, and the hawks all see him as one of their own. It’s truly remarkable.
The Republicans lost the election in a major way, shedding Senate seats along with the White House. It would appear to be a time for the party to do a major overhaul, building the new agenda more around Reformer policies- like economic equality, inclusion and global warming policy- that would appeal more to the modern electorate than the Traditionalist model does. And when it comes time for that shift to happen, Democrats should be as supportive as they can be of the change. An enemy of an enemy is our friend and the Reformers want to cut off their crazy wing as much as we’d like them to.
In Paul Krugman’s latest (excellent) book, he argues that the age of centrist government of the 50’s was entirely the result of the compression of wealth via the new deal, and of a concerted effort on the part of the Democrats after they took decisive control of Congress.
We’ve got the latter, let’s hope in leads to the former, and (in the long run), the end of the wingnuts.