In the course of a thoughtful post denouncing Jesse Helms, Ross Douthat writes:

Far from being the sort of politicians who conservatives ought to defend, out of a sense of issue-by-issue solidarity, [Helms is] the sort of politician conservatives ought to carefully distance themselves from, because his political style brought (and continues to bring) intellectual disrepute to almost every cause with which he was associated. Inherent to conservatism is the responsibility to stand up and say to bien-pensant opinion: Just because a bigot opposes something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. But the necessity (and difficulty) of making that case, whether the issue is affirmative action or "comprehensive" immigration reform or the NEA and Piss Christ, is all the more reason for conservatives to keep their distance from actual bigots, even (or especially) when they’re representing the great state of North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.

Doesn’t it say something about a movement, though, if "inherent" to that movement is the defense of ideas that aren’t a priori bigoted but eagerly embraced by bigots? Certainly the left, and liberalism, has its share of malefactors, charlatans, thugs and S.O.B.s. But if I had to spend my intellectual efforts arguing that such-and-such bad-actor is right but for the wrong reasons, I might rethink whether it was worth it.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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