A few months ago, in the whirling morass of some raging conservative Twitter fight of the moment, veteran blogger Robert Stacy McCain weighed in with this observation that I offer here verbatim: “A lot of infighting lately among friendlies. I hate that crap.” Well spoken, Stacy. So do I.
Allow me to clarify what I do not mean by the preceding statement. Frankly, Stacy McCain himself is one of the scrappier web pundits on the scene today. He is not remotely afraid to wade into controversy or to advocate vigorously and, often, tartly on behalf of the issues and candidates he supports. This, combined with his incisive writing style, is why his blog gets over a million hits a year.
Conservatives are about ideas and substance, not demagoguery and symbolism. As such, we should never be hesitant to argue amongst each other about our principles and beliefs. Wisdom, of any kind and in any era, constitutes an ongoing conversation. The underlying truths are timeless, but the motifs of presentation and lines of reasoning constantly require a fresh focus for a new generation. A discussion of both current methods and long-term strategy in the struggle to limit the leviathan of government is part and parcel of the resurgence of conservatism. This is a fight we are currently privileged not only to witness, but to join, in our time!
Such a dialogue will, at times, result in sharp divergences of perspective over specific pieces of legislation, over campaign tactics and over political personalities. This may impede progress in terms of the timeliness of implementing the agenda of limited government, but so be it. Dissent, especially among conservatives, is a mark of a flourishing movement and should take place.
Rancor and viciousness, however, are decidedly NOT healthy. I’m quite sure this is what RS McCain was referring to by usage of the term “infighting”; I know it is what springs to my consciousness. As a committed conservative, it is my duty, when appropriate, to question your judgment and your methodology, even if and perhaps especially when I call you my friend. But as a fellow conservative, we march under the same philosophical banner and share common goals. Because of that, I find employment of derogatory rhetoric that impugns motives or intelligence not only counterproductive, but damaging and unkind.
As I see it, I keep my powder dry for the plentiful displays of incomprehensible economic idiocy that regularly are displayed by the Left end of the political spectrum. I’m more than capable of launching barbs in that direction and would far rather do so. When it comes to my fellow conservatives, am I willing to highlight perceived areas of inconsistency or impracticality? Certainly, but always with the mitigating recognition that infinitely more unites us than divides us.
So let the debates continue, as they will in the coming days and months, especially with pending Presidential primaries. But my plan is to cherish the friendships I have formed in this movement, and to remember that the inevitable temporary fractures are just that. I’ll be vocal in disagreement, but I won’t forget who my friends are. I’d be pleased if more of us could do the same.