A reader remonstrates:

By dismissing them as liars and party hacks, I don't think you're really confronting their argument head-on. I know because I've had this argument a million times with conservative friends. Rush and Hugh are probably being sincere in their contention that the Democratic party is SO debased and oblivious to the terrorist threat that it would put our safety directly at risk to not overlook some of the flaws in the current Republican leadership. To them, even to entertain the notion of giving power to a modern-day Democrat is to embolden our enemies and show ourselves as cowards to the rest of the world.

So, much like you and your temporary kinship with liberals, Rush and Hugh put their objections to the side and unite with a deeply flawed group of politicians. Just as you see the christianist/free-spending Republican threat as so serious as to require putting an otherwise unattractive bunch of liberals in power, Rush and Hugh see the democratic threat as so serious as to require keeping the republicans in power. If conservative vision gets trashed in the process so be it - conservatism is strong enough to reassert itself when the threat to our existence is not so imminent. To counter this, don't you have to defend the leadership abilities of a bunch of indefensible democrats? What have they shown us to deserve such praise?

Two responses: if Hewitt and Limbaugh had said before the election that they knew these Republicans were not conservatives, and didn't deserve their support, but that they were still preferable to any Democratic check on presidential power, it would be one thing. But they didn't. They bit their tongues on the GOP. That's intellectually dishonest.

The second point is: is their fear of the Democrats a rational one? On some key issues, I just don't think so. On the war, it is hard to imagine how much worse you could get than Rumsfeld's management. Is Biden really lunatic to propose dividing the country? Is Levin eager to allow Islamist terrorists to win? Please. Show some respect. On spending, again, how much worse could it have been? These guys increased spending at a faster rate than any Democratic Congress since FDR. I could go on.

There comes a point at which an adult conservative should be eager to see the Democrats come to the center, if only to avoid the hubris and corruption that always stems from one-party rule, whichever party it is. I think the explanation for the intellectual dishonesty was that an entire industry was built around demonizing the left; and that this demonization became all conservatives were about. There was so much money in it; and it was so easy to demonize liberals that that's all they ended up doing.

The Republicans had become so enthralled by what they were against that they had forgotten what they were supposed to be for. So they came off as negative, mean-spirited and cruel. Hence the solid American center moving back to the Dems. The result, however, is in many ways a good conservative one. Many more conservative Democrats are now in Congress than before. We have a chance to move in a realistic way in Iraq, now that the loonies have been removed from the Pentagon (Cambone has just been given his papers, I hear). And we may get a sensible compromise on immigration. Bush has a real opportunity to rescue his presidency. For the sake of the country, I hope he succeeds.

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