I make a living disagreeing with people who are far more successful, famous, wealthy and important than I am. I have spent thousands of hours on television and thousands of column inches criticizing the President of the United States. If you think I’m going to apologize for suggesting that it might be okay to disagree with a radio host sometimes, you don’t know me at all.

But I guess I’m not surprised at the rancor. For one, part of the point I was trying to make was that the impulse to defend anything and everything that a party heavyweight says — to the death — has the deleterious effect of making conservatives seem irrational and herd-like. No one is right all the time, and no one is above reproach. Limbaugh, who has frequently criticized Republicans, knows this better than anyone…

The other point that the reaction to my Rush comments proves is that conservatives continue to view criticism (even the constructive kind) through a lens of ideological suspicion. Even though I defended conservative principles as right, strong and popular, and explicitly said this isn’t about casting strident conservatives out of the party but reworking our messaging, Rush’s fans still decided that my conservatism was discredited. Disagreeing with him, or merely offering that we should feel comfortable disagreeing with party leaders now and then, suddenly made me an untrustworthy, sell-out liberal…

It’s not my desire to silence anyone, but amplify other voices, many of whom don’t feel like they have permission to disagree with party heavyweights. We don’t need permission, and in fact conservatism has a hallowed tradition of healthy skepticism toward authority. It’s that skepticism toward authority that has made Rush Limbaugh a very successful man.