Internal social conflicts which concern goals, values or interests that do not contradict the basic assumptions upon which the relationship is founded tend to be positively functional for the social structure. Such conflicts tend to make possible the readjustment of norms and power relations within groups in accordance with the felt needs of its individual members or subgroups.To be honest, I think the first paragraph better describes the tension within the GOP—they're fighting over "goals, values, or interests," and not fundamental assumptions (whatever that might mean). So down goes the Crack-Up Thermometer. But this next passage is worthy of a few contemplative strokes of the chin:
Internal conflicts in which the contending parties no longer share the basic values upon which the legitimacy of the social system rests threaten to disrupt the structure.
Closely knit groups in which there exists a high frequency of interaction and high personality involvement of the members have a tendency to suppress conflict. While they provide frequent occasions for hostility... the acting out of such feelings is sensed as a danger to such intimate relationships...Does that describe the current GOP coalition? Without a doubt it has been very personality driven, somewhat unified around the cult of Bush and Rove—recall, for instance, back in early 2001 when the coalition of estate-tax repealers were willing to back the president no matter what he did or decided. This is Mark Schmitt's thesis: that the GOP has become so centralized, such a command-and-control operation, that collapse will come swift and severe.
If conflict breaks out in a group that has consistently tried to prevent expression of hostile feelings, it will be particularly intense for two reasons: First, because the conflict does not merely aim at resolving the immediate issue which led to its outbreak; all accumulated grievances which were denied expression previously are apt to emerge at this occasion. Second, because the total personality involvement of the group members makes for mobilization of all sentiments in the conduct of the struggle.
Groups which are engaged in continued struggle tend to lay claim on the total personality involvement of their members so that internal conflict would tend to mobilize all energies and affects of the members. Hence such groups are unlikely to tolerate more than limited departures from the group unity. In such groups there is a tendency to suppress conflict; where it occurs, it leads the group to break up through splits or through forced withdrawal of dissenters.Hmmmmm, now this could be a problem for the Republican Party, which has so thoroughly mobilized itself against the "liberal movement"—see Tom DeLay's recent "Wah wah, I'm an embattled figure" remarks—no one would pretend this is a party that's not in "continued struggle." So perhaps this is where the pressure for a crack-up will come. If Coser's right, then so long as the GOP defines itself as a majority opposition party, rather than a governing party, it will run the danger of a nasty split or "forced withdrawal of dissenters." (Which has started to happen to a small degree.) Of course, the Democrats run the exact same risk, as they've definitely "mobilize[d] all energies and affects of the members" towards a single purpose—defeating their enemies.