Dave Weigel has a piece up about how there won’t be much Republican infighting in 2011. I’m sure he’s right. Generally, Republicans don’t argue with each other much during the legislative season because they aren’t interested in governing, they just don’t care enough to argue about the boring, concrete things that go into making laws. If things become sufficiently symbolic — flag burning, keeping brown people out, the Dubai ports deal (not that the reaction there was totally irrational), TWOC — they’ll fight to the death, but they’re not going to battle with each other over whether the CBO estimate for that is $100 billion more than the CBO estimate for this.
But when the presidential campaign season starts, they’ll go for each other’s throats. I remember reading in 2008, on Ben Smith’s blog, I can’t find the link, that he was astounded by Republican presidential candidates routinely crotch-kicking each other in ways Democrats never did (for better or worse). The details are a bit Inside Baseball — I remember the oppo report on Giuliani judicial appointments and lots of nasty stuff directed at Romney — but ask yourself if you’ve ever seen Democrats do anything like the push polling Bush did about John McCain’s “black baby”.
The Republican party of today is built on winning elections by fighting hard over imaginary issues. I don’t think there’s quite as simple an answer for what the Democratic party is built on but there is more interest in bloodsport over policy details and less on bloodsport during elections.