Our political debates are often necessarily contentious, but they must remain only metaphorically battles. Different stripes of conservatives can have productive arguments with one another about how to help families flourish, what the proper bounds of government are, and who should lead the Republican Party. But that debate must not partake of conspiratorial fantasies, and lawless violence must never be on the table. We must strive, against all demagogues, to make our reason the master and not the servant of our passions.

The spirit of republican deliberation is already too frail in our times. Our fellow citizens doubt one another’s good intent and capacity for self-government. Even conservatives are tempted to give up the defense of the Constitution, which would leave it friendless and dying. Nothing, at such a moment, can sound more naïve than a call for Americans to rededicate ourselves to our patrimony. Nothing is more essential.