We hear a lot, indeed too much, these days about Republican craziness and civic irresponsibility. I’ve argued that a lot of that talk comes from frustrated liberals who ought to know better, but don't because they're losing their intellectual and civic bearings. But there’s no denying that there are more than a few conservative activists out there saying some crazy and civically irresponsible things. And influential Republican politicians haven’t always been very diligent about calling them on it. That matters because, at a time when our standards of civic responsibility are getting more politicized, the only effective way to combat irresponsible partisanship is for each side to police itself.
That shouldn't be a particularly hard thing for politicians to do inasmuch as it's mostly a matter of elementary citizenship. All of us should be able occasionally to step back from the partisan fray far enough to draw bright lines between those things that do and don't count as civically responsible partisanship. It's not unreasonable to expect the politicians who aspire to represent us to be more conscientious about, and more skilled at, discharging that basic civic obligation than the rest of us. Alas, it looks like a lot of them aren't.
Here’s an example of how it’s done. Chris Christie has been taking heat for appointing a Muslim to the New Jersey bench. Take a look at how he responds: