Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bandwidth, pt II

There will always be a scandal of the day in Washington. For those who otherwise might have missed it (ie, people with lives), Sarah Palin recently criticized White House advisor Rahm Emanuel for characterizing some temporary adversaries as "f***ing retarded" for not seeing things his way. She was offended by that usage, "retarded" not the profanity btw, for the sake of her son Trig who has Down Syndrome. We are supposed to show more sensitivity to the disabled, and so on.

In today's National Review Online, Hadley Arkes piles on. This is ridiculous on a couple of levels. Contrary to the opinion of some people, "retarded" will never be functionally equivalent to the n-word. The n-word is obviously intended as an insult by anyone who speaks it, because the speaker could have just as easily used "black guy" or some other formulation instead. But the reality is, some people are clever and others are dim, and there is no word for stupid that can hide the difference.

But more than that, we as conservatives have limited bandwidth, through which we can communicate to America at large. In some ways, that's the most precious resource we have. Moreover, bandwidth works like an investment. If we invest wisely, we will get more of it. If we squander it, it's gone.

With that in mind, we can't afford to crowd out our essential message: we can bring the return of prosperity and limited government to America, and the other team can't. And we're going to do that by X, Y, and Z. As long as we are engaged for this purpose, the American people will give us a fair hearing. And the same holds if we are talk about other important concerns worthy of the public's attention. But we can't appear to be engaged in cheap partisan point-scoring or mindless PC enforcement for its own sake. That's the same as telling the American people to ignore us, and it's a long time out of that wilderness.

Update: what he said.

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