Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn had the courage to say what no other leader has since a rift in the Republican Party over the U.S. Senate primary election erupted into a full-blown case of the measles.

"The enemy is not other conservatives. The enemy is not even the Democratic Party,' Gunn, R-Clinton, said at the Neshoba County Fair on Thursday. "The enemy is out-of-control spending, government dependency, poor education, attacks on our religious freedoms, attacks on your right to bear arms.... We need to bind together and unify ourselves and fight against these issues and not each other.'

The Speaker is absolutely right. The enemy is anyone who would undermine our Republic by advocating broader government control, deeper debt, stripping away of religious liberty and the trampling of the Second Amendment.

Conspiracies do exist, and so do bad people, but if you see conspiracies everywhere - especially in your own political party - you may need to step away from politics for a while.

Gunn said political parties are like marriages, they aren't measured by lack of disagreement but rather by how they reconcile after disagreeing.

"The same holds true for a political party...we cannot heal as a party if we engage in name calling or backbiting...we need to talk to one another, we need to listen to others' concerns, we need to value each others' opinions, we need to respect each others' thoughts, we must not shut out the voice of anyone who truly wants to be part of the conservative movement."

Gunn stayed largely out of the fray during the Republican primary and gave a firm, conciliatory unity speech well received by the crowd.

"This divide must be healed," he said, "for the health of the party and more importantly the health of our state. We've got to meet this issue head-on and we've got to find a way to bring unity back to our party.

"I'm proud to be a conservative Republican. I believe the Republican Party is the party of the people because we are the party of opportunity. Our policies and our values are the road map to success in Mississippi. We have better ideas, we have a better plan and we have better leaders.

"The Democratic Party is never going to be the home of conservative values. It's just not. The conservative values live with the Republican Party.

"If you believe in limited government, if you believe in living within your means, if you believe in religious freedom, the right to bear arms; if you believe in increased freedom, increased opportunity and increased jobs, then the Republican Party is your home. You are part of our family and you are welcome under our tent."

Our Republic was founded on compromise. Our Constitution is a product of compromise. And at the heart of our Constitution is liberty and freedom for all.

Once the engine of progress, compromise - and we draw the distinction on matters of public policy versus, say, one's personal religious beliefs - is considered by some a contemptible exercise to be avoided at all costs. That's too bad and it's destructive.

The Republican Party is going to have to move away from its purity tests when it comes to matters of public policy or it will go the way of the Whigs.

Now, more than ever, it's time for Republican leaders to step up, as Speaker Gunn has, and actually lead.