Peter Wehner at the Ethics and Public Policy Center is our Bull Moose of the Day.
In his essay “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Virtue” in Commentary, Wehner fires an important shot against the forces that brought the GOP so far to the right and, if they had their way, would continue to drag us down that path. By harkening to Barry Goldwater‘s infamous speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention (a moment that GOP historian Geoffery Kabaservice flags as the beginning of the Republican lurch to the right), Wehner points us back to the kind of Republican Party and the kind of conservatism that is built on principle but ultimately dedicated to an America for all Americans.
Wehner notes that we can all envision moments when extreme measures would be justified, but they are rare. However:
That said, my concern about those who endorse extremism is that it is by its very nature militant, a break with the kind of moderation that is essential for a free society. Extremism, of course, characterized the French Revolution, which (unlike the American Revolution) so unnerved Edmund Burke. It leads to dogmatism and distorted thinking, to viewing politics in apocalyptic terms.
He has captured in a single paragraph the problem of the Tea Party, and of those Republicans who find themselves sucked into the apocalyptic dogmatism of the Tea Partistas, whether by inclination or compulsion.
And in so doing he has, I hope, begun a process that will lead the GOP not just away from the reactionary leanings of the Tea Party, but back to its roots as the party of wise, practical, balanced progress typified by Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike Eisenhower, and (on their better days) Dick Nixon and Ron Reagan.
There is always a role for the ideologue in any political organization. But we cannot govern the nation as prisoners of absolutes, whether they be radical or reactionary. Wehner, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, gets this, to his lasting credit.