Without softening our revulsion at the sexual escapades of Republicans willing to co-opt the enthusiasm of the Religious Right, we nevertheless caution Mr. Conason from observations like the following:
By the way, while Vitter, Ensign, Gingrich and perhaps Sanford have been able to retain their positions and political viability, the same cannot be said for the most recent offenders on the progressive side. Neither Eliot Spitzer nor John Edwards, each among the most promising figures in the Democratic Party, will ever be a candidate for public office again, although their misbehavior was no worse than what their Republican counterparts did.
First, it's not at all clear what will happen to Ensign, who nationally was never much to begin with. Second, Gingrich hasn't held public office since his resignation after the revelation of his infidelity. In the present vacuum of party leadership, he makes the rounds like a supplicant, not a power broker. Third, Conanson's comparison only works with the phrase "most recent." We recall a certain President of the Jacksonian Party whose distasteful infidelities at 1600 Pennsylvania were vociferously defended by all members of his "progressive" party. We also recall that the now-senior Senator from Massachusetts has enjoyed a storied career despite a long-ago dalliance that ended worse than all of these others combined. Moreover, it remains to be seen whether Spitzer or Edwards will one day reappear on the scene. Certainly the buzz is that Edwards is working on it. If they do not, it's hardly because the Dems are more principled, only that they have tired of defending their scoundrels after the bruising battle for Clinton.
Now, Mr. Conanson, we instruct. You end your essay as follows:
If they looked honestly at themselves, religious conservatives might notice that they are morally lax, socially permissive and casually tolerant of moral deviancy -- just like the liberals they despise. So as they wonder aloud why the same salacious nightmare haunts them, year after year, the best advice they can get happens to come from that old sinner Clinton. As he so often says, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting a different outcome.
Here, Mr. Conanson, you unwittingly acknowledge the core of conservatism: the belief that all humans are flawed, yea, even depraved. Self-styled progressives don't acknowledge that. Their Manichean world is divided between children of light (the poor, "working families," and, of course, progressive politicians and activists) and children of darkness (the rich, corporations, and, of course, conservatives). Hence, empowerment for the correct people is what it's all about.
Conservatives, when they're being conservatives, know that humans are corrupt and corruptible, that power corrupts, and so people are not to be trusted with power. And that includes themselves.