Establishment Republicans have been happy to wield the Tea Party as a "rhetorical cudgel" against President Obama and his party, says Gabriel Winant in Salon. The trouble is, by making Tea Partiers a symbol of their own legitimacy, the GOP elite entrusted their future to a band of outsiders. Now, the establishment is busily trying to "wrest control of the party back from these ruffians."

It's happening in North Carolina, where Republican leaders are trying to derail Tea Party candidate Tim D'Annunzio's challenge of vulnerable Democratic incumbent Rep. Larry Kissell by pointing out that D'Annunzio has had "run-ins with the law" and once claimed to be the messiah. Similar tensions have surfaced in the Kentucky primary battle between Trey Greyson and ultimate winner Rand Paul, and in the Nevada fight between Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle and Republican front-runner Sue Lowden to see who will challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Has the GOP turned on the Tea Party? Here, an excerpt:

"This tension is an inherent part of running a political party, especially when the issues on the national agenda are making the party base restive. Political scientists have long been aware of the natural conflict between the 'professionals' and the 'purists.' What the professionals want is to get and hold power; what the purists want is to enact their agenda. The professionals have some use for the purists: they can point to them as evidence of a popular base, they can use them to staff campaigns and organizations and mine them for fundraising. But they won't risk actually turning power over to the activists."

Read the entire article at Salon.