I have not been feeling the blog this week but when the conservative Cheddarsphere's Blogfather speaks twenty feet from my office, I've got to say something.
Charlie Sykes participated in a series of the "Conversations" hosted by my colleague and new next door office neighbor Mike Gousha. The event was well attended and interesting. Good questions; provocative answers.
John McAdams did a nice job of live blogging the event. One thing to add. He says that a question about whether talk show hosts screen out dissenting callers was also an accusation. It is, but not by the guy who asked it. I asked it because I have spoken to enough people in that business to know that this is precisely what they do not do. It would make for boring radio which would make for poor ratings which would make for unemployment.
Yet people persist in believing it. I asked the question to clarify that.
I wanted to focus a bit on one question from the audience. John Pauly, Dean of the College of Communications at Marquette, wondered whether there was a contradiction in conservatism around the question of what binds us to one another as human beings. How, he asked, should conservatives define the human community?
Charlie agreed that there was often a contradiction between the more stridently libertarian aspects of conservatism and what he agreed was an essential need for human community.
This is an issue that fascinates me and my own view is tentative. I want to say that the conservative sense of community is more organic in the sense that it tends to base itself in something deeper than the political community and more particular than the "human race" - although it may recognize the rights and worth (are those things also in tension?) of all humans. This tends to result in a community that is at once more libertarian and more authoritarian - the latter because community is more likely to be seen as built around shared values that impose obligations on its members. Therein lies the tension - loosely reflected in the uneasy alliance of economic and social conservatives.
Of course, this tension may exist in left liberalism as well and maybe you'd be better to argue that the distinction between it and conservatism lies in the directions in which the movements tilt. Thus you have Michael Barone's concepts of hard and soft America (also alluded to by Charlie during yesterday's program).
I don't have time for more this morning.