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Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement Are at War With the GOP

Just as the GOP candidate has for more than 100 years, Dede Scozzafava was supposed to win the congressional seat in New York's 23rd district. Then Palin stepped in.

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Richard Viguerie, who co-founded the religious right with Phillips, issued a press release promising third-party woe unto GOP leaders.

"Conservatives' anger at Washington-establishment Republicans will cost the national committees tens of millions of dollars," Viguerie writes, "as conservative money will start flowing directly to the Tea Parties and their candidates."

For Armey and the FreedomWorks crew, the Fox pundits and the Club for Growth, the fight for the 23rd district is more about reminding the GOP establishment who's in charge: The business interests who fund those organizations, whose CEOs were likely not amused by the specter of a moderate Republican congresswoman who embraces the Employee Free Choice Act, a proposal for legislation that would make it easier for workers to join labor unions.

All their organizing on Hoffman's behalf bought him a shiny war chest, into which he reached for a barrage of television ads -- one featuring Thompson of TV's Law and Order fame -- arrayed against Scozzafava.

Jackson Stephens, a board member of the Club for Growth, created a group meant to look like a pro-Scozzafava organization that launched an ad calling the Republican candidate "the choice for progressives," highlighting her support for same-sex marriage, abortion rights and EFCA.

Republican leaders got the message. When their candidate dropped out of the race on Saturday, they lined up behind Hoffman, the right's man. When Scozzafava, battered by the right, endorsed Owens, the Democrat, she was condemned by her former backer, Newt Gingrich, who told the Associated Press that he was "deeply upset" by Scozzafava's support of Owens. "I'm very, very let down," Gingrich said, "because she told everybody she was a Republican, and she said she was a loyal Republican."

Yet Gingrich, once the upstart who pushed his party's leaders further to the right, also decried the tactics of Armey and Palin, telling Fox's Greta Van Susteren, "... this idea that we're suddenly going to establish litmus tests, and all across the country we're going to purge the party of anybody who doesn't agree with us 100 percent -- that guarantees Obama's re-election. That guarantees Pelosi is speaker for life. I mean, I think that is a very destructive model for the Republican Party."

Newt's probably right. In the short run, this could be good for the Democrats.

But American politics is cyclical in nature. No victory is permanent. Sooner or later, voters tire of one side and elect the other.

As the Republican Party condenses to its most bitter strain, the poison is distilled. Chances are, that poison will be dispersed into the populace when voters at last tire of the Democrats. And that would be very bad for all of us.

Adele M. Stan AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.