Yes, we must expose evil intent, misguided policy and bad ideas for what they are. But as my boss, Ed Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation, constantly says, we must take care not to make the attacks personal. In an inspiring speech titled “Lay Your Hammer Down,” delivered at Hillsdale College in 2004, Feulner said: “Our free, self-governing society requires an open exchange of ideas, which in turn requires a certain level of civility rooted in mutual respect for each other's opinions and viewpoints.”

As far as Thomas and Beckel are concerned, now is the ideal time to work at promoting civil discussion:

“The 2008 presidential campaign is the most wide-open race in recent history. For the first time since 1924, neither a president nor a current or former vice president is competing for either party’s nomination. At the same time, both parties are facing an identity crisis; Democrats are adjusting to their new status as the congressional majority party, while Republicans face a presidential season without their traditional party-establishment front-runner.”

But can this work in today’s red-state/blue-state America? Absolutely—in large measure, Thomas and Beckel argue, because the famous red-blue dichotomy is a myth. Some so-called red states have elected liberal Democrats, while some alleged blue states have pulled the lever for conservative Republicans.

What matters, in the end, is how we respond to their call for civility. As they write: “So, what will it be: More combat, leading to more anger and a perpetuation of our broken political system, or common ground? The question should answer itself.” Let’s hope so.

Rebecca Hagelin, a vice president at The Heritage Foundation, is the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad and runs the Web site