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Limbaugh vs. Steele

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Intra-party fighting has broken out among the conservatives. The main event is Limbaugh vs. Steele. But lighter weights have also had their moment: Bobby Jindal, and a smattering of other governors have spoken up, sometimes poorly. Senator McCain is determined to be schizoid. The media is having a field day. Is this entertainment?

I have two thoughts out of all this. First, finding your feet after a couple of bruisings can be hard if you have no internal discipline, which itself requires a profound motivation and understanding of the world that has just handed you your hat. Now everyone can see that the conservatives have problems with both their motivation (why are we here? what do we stand for?) and understanding the world (why did we really lose?).

But don't be so quick to dance on graves. Even from a weakened position they can still be dastardly to try to work with, as John McCain proves.

For myself, I hope for a revival of intellectual rigor amongst conservatives. David Brooks is a moderate in the minority, as one New York Times commentary stated. But if the moderates are a tiny minority, then that leaves only the more vociferous mob hecklers like Limbaugh to whip up the partisans. That isn't helpful for those who must govern or for the governed. I miss William F. Buckley.

The second thing that I see here is that the progressives aren't really helping. When the president's chief of staff publicly fans the flames of division within the right, he does no justice to his office or his boss's. More important, progressives who simply smirk and chide the conservatives do nothing more than show that they are a tribe, too, and one just as petty. This is the time when education should be attempted. If progressives really feel their ideas are better and worth spending big government money developing, then they should respond to the stumbling conservatives with an enlightened hand up. Not all would accept the hand, of course. But that's not the point. The point is to demonstrate by word and deed that progressives do not wish their opposing brethren ill; instead progressives would be offering ideas, talent, and the kindness of strangers to win at least a few hearts and minds.

And when the columnists and pundits come out to play among the recent foibles and partisan sniping, they are also not helping. I suppose in the end we all love red meat, regardless of which tribe we identify with. And more is the pity if that is true. I take little joy in seeing this primitive tribal food fight play out this way. Don't get me wrong: I'm always up for a meaningful and public contest, a vital marketplace of ideas where persuasion is the coin of the realm. But food fights within one tribe and snobbery from the other is not a satisfying contest; it’s only entertainment.

Did I say that I miss William F. Buckley?

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