(photo: Adam NFK Smith)

The first political figure to resign their post after the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords was an African-American Arizona Republican:

Just hours after 22-year-old gunman Jared Loughner launched a shooting spree at a Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) constituent event in Tucson on Saturday that left six dead and 14 wounded, Legislative District chairman Anthony Miller, a Republican, announced that he would resign his position. In an email to the state’s GOP chair, Miller cited “constant verbal attacks” after his election last year “and Internet blog posts by some local members with Tea Party ties made him worry about his family’s safety.” Many of his Republican colleagues followed him out the door:

In an e-mail sent a few hours after Saturday’s massacre in Tucson that killed six and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Miller told state Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen he was quitting: “Today my wife of 20 yrs ask (sic) me do I think that my PCs (Precinct Committee members) will shoot at our home? So with this being said I am stepping down from LD20GOP Chairman…I will make a full statement on Monday.” [...]

The newly-elected Dist. 20 Republican secretary, Sophia Johnson of Ahwatukee, first vice chairman Roger Dickinson of Tempe and Jeff Kolb, the former district spokesman from Ahwatukee, also quit. “This singular focus on ‘getting’ Anthony (Miller) was one of the main reasons I chose to resign,” Kolb said in an e-mail to another party activist. Kolb confirmed the contents of the e-mail to the Republic.

I bring this up not to harp on the “violent rhetoric” debate that has gone on for the past several days, but to call attention to the potential for a real fracturing of the GOP coalition. You have an establishment at least somewhat concerned about the vituperative Tea Party movement, and not just their rhetoric but their ideas. In another corner of the conservative coalition, you have this contretemps over CPAC allowing a gay group to participate in its annual conference. Yesterday the first actual member of Congress pulled out, Rep. Jim Jordan, joining multiple conservative groups, including the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation, in boycotting the event.

I thought it would take a little longer than the first couple weeks of the GOP House majority to see these kind of growing pains. But the tragic events of last weekend may have accelerated things somewhat. I find it incredible that nobody in the party knows quite how to position themselves in relation to the base; this is why you haven’t seen one major candidate declare for President, whereas 14 major candidates declared at this point four years ago. These internecine squabbles may get put down in time for the next election, but they represent a real discomfort in building a coalition composed of anything but the fringe.