Conservative infighting heats up as focus shifts to important policy debates
Wed Feb 24, 3:40 pm ET

When Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election to fill liberal icon Ted Kennedy's vacant Senate seat, he was hailed as a conservative hero and a symbol of the start of a revolution in American politics. But Brown's recent vote in favor of a Democrat-sponsored spending bill inspired thousands of conservatives to direct a firehose of anger at the newly-minted Senator via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The sudden turn against Brown is just one of a few current internal squabbles on the right that could distract the conservative movement's focus away from what's been its main focus over the past year: opposing the efforts by President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress to expand the role of government.

Here's a rundown of the three most significant current conflicts:

-Conservatives vs. Scott Brown: You'd be hard-pressed to find a single instance in U.S. political history when a single vote by a politician has affected his or her popularity more dramatically than Brown's vote in favor of the Democrats' jobs bill. Explaining his actions in a Facebook wall post, Brown wrote:

“I came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside, and to do everything in my power to help create jobs for Massachusetts families, this Senate jobs bill is not perfect. I wish the tax cuts were deeper and broader, but I am voting for it because it contains measures that will help put people back t...o work. ... I hope for improvements in that process going forward."

The post generated thousands of comments and photoshopped images in response. Branded "Benedict Brown" by some in an ode to the famous turncoat of the Revolutionary War, the outpouring of anti-Scott Brown sentiment on the Internet was so far and wide, even spilling over to his daughter Ayla's Facebook page, that Gawker.com held a tongue-in-cheek contest encouraging readers to vote for their favorite "enraged Scott Brown Facebook fan comment." Many of the aforementioned comments and photos posted to Brown's Facebook page, as well as his daughter's, have since been removed, presumably by a Brown aide or Facebook administrators.

-Glenn Beck vs. Republicans/conservative commentators vs. Glenn Beck: On Saturday night, widely popular and always controversial Fox News host Glenn Beck delivered the keynote address at the annual gathering of conservatives known as CPAC. In his speech, Beck took some shots at the Republican party, comparing its inability to control its spending impulses to Tiger Woods' inability to control his sexual urges, and hinted that the creation of a third party might be in order since he thinks there are few differences between Republicans and Democrats in Washington.

Beck's words to the 2010 CPAC attendees, who supported Ron Paul overwhelmingly in a straw poll, didn't sit well with many of his cohorts in the conservative punditry. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh warned that such talk threatened to divide the movement at a particularly crucial time.

"The best way to insure that Obama succeeds is to think that we need a third party," he said. "All the momentum that we've got going right now is just going to hit a brick wall if a third party starts, particularly on the basis that there's 'no difference between the two parties.'"

Conservative talker Mark Levin went a step further, mincing no words in firing a rhetorical warning shot aimed directly at Beck, saying flatly, "Stop dividing us."

-Michael Steele vs. the party faithful: One seemingly constant source of controversy within the Republican party for the last year has been the words and actions of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. The former Maryland lietenant governor has come under fire numerous times for comments deemed by some as embracing moderate to liberal policy stances. Additionally, Steele's handling of party finances has angered many within the ranks, a scab that was peeled off again this week when a Politico story revealed that not only is Steele lagging behind his predecessors in raising money for the party, but that he's also spent nearly twice as much as any past chairman on things such as charter flights, pricey meals, and chauffered cars.

In response to the story, a Steele aide fired back, noting that the RNC has raised over $90 million in the last year for Republican candidates across the country.

"We are focused on two things, raising money and winning elections," said advisor Doug Heye. "We have sent money directly to state parties and have won three statewide elections."

Whether or not these controversies will wind up hampering the conservative movement's ability to put up a united front in fighting for their ideological causes obviously remains to be seen. That said, they do not come at a good time. Unless, of course, you're a Democrat.

-- Brett Michael Dykes is a contributor to the Yahoo! News blog

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