The immigration battle, the debate over U.S. involvement in Syria and the flap over NSA surveillance have suggested two starkly different visions of the GOP as well as two potential paths for the GOP.
The question remains whether the GOP will become the party of:
Sen. Rand Paul, Ky., or Sen. Kelly Ayotte, N.H., on national security;
The Gang of Eight or the Gang of Three (Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions) on immigration;
Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio, or Rick Santorum on gay marriage;
Broad-based appeal (e.g. Govs. Chris Christie, Gov. Scott Walker) or losing ideologues (Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Michele Bachmann).
The divide is not so much ideological as it is temperamental.
The media call it the tea party vs. the "establishment," but this is a crude and ultimately inaccurate description.
You can't get more "establishment" than the Heritage Foundation, and yet it doesn't align itself with Christie, Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey. There are internationalists in the tea party and in the "establishment."
Instead, what we see are two conflicting visions of politics and governance.
One philosophy sees its aim as furthering, albeit imperfectly, conservative goals; the other about using defiance as a springboard to higher office.
One side views the country (tolerant, increasingly diverse) and the world (dangerous, populated by rogue states) as they are, while the other harkens back to an imaginary bygone era of homogeneity at home and fortress America.