Only a few months after being defeated in the Presidential Election the Republican Party is having an identity crisis. The party has split in two over the issue of civil liberties and presidential power. The split came to a head when Senator Rand Paul filibustered CIA Director John Brennan’s nomination for 13 hours. In response to the popular display Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham condemned Paul mocking his arguments. McCain would ultimately insult Senator Paul by claiming he and his allies represented the wacko bird caucus.

In an interview with Peter Schiff – an investment manager and at one point Republican candidate for U.S Senate from Connecticut – Senator Paul struck back at McCain.

SCHIFF: I guess you are the “Big Bird” of the wacko bird caucus.

RAND PAUL: I think you know, you take into consideration the source. I think it means you are having an effect if the old guard is acting that way and making it personal. I think it means you are having an effect and really on the substance I think it means you’re winning.

Previously the imperialist wing of the Republican Party was always dominant. With the presidency of George W. Bush the term “neoconservative” came into fashion which represented an extremely aggressive form of  imperialism culminating in the invasion of Iraq. In order to run wars of choice such as Iraq or even to have a permanent war economy or Military Industrial Complex civil liberties must be curtailed and limited and the Bush Administration launched surveillance programs, secret prisons, and the drone program.

But while the imperialist wing of the Republican Party was always dominant a dissenting wing within the party always existed, often referred to as “libertarians” who actually believe in limited government especially when it comes to the Bill of Rights. The person most closely identified with this wing previously was Rand Paul’s father, Congressman Ron Paul who ran for President in 2012 as a Republican. The libertarian wing represented by Ron Paul was defeated as Mitt Romney and the imperialist wing secured the GOP’s nomination.

Then the 2012 election happened. Mitt Romney was soundly defeated despite running against an incumbent president with a lousy economy. So now the GOP has to reassemble itself into a party that can win national elections or accept junior status. It isn’t going well. But that also means the party as a whole may have to pivot on imperialism as it must on issues such as immigration. So Senator Rand Paul’s challenge to losing 2008 GOP Presidential Nominee John McCain is as symbolic as it is personal. It is a battle for the soul of the party.

And given the demographics some Republicans are seeing the writing on the wall. Some are settling down for a long stay out of the White House. So if they are not going to hold power some in the GOP are wondering how much power they want to give to the Democratic Party and Democratic presidents.