New Jersey Governor Chris Christie walks out to shakes hands with Ralph Reed after he spoke at the second day of the 5th annual Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" Policy Conference in Washington

The great American composer and critic Virgil Thomson used to say that when he went to a concert, he didn’t listen to music. He listened for music.

That was a good way to approach the latest convention of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C. There was music in the air, especially for those who still hope there is some common ground in our deeply divided republic, but you had to listen hard.

“Every day of this presidency has been an impeachable offense,” said Monica Crowley of Fox News. “This is the deliberate takedown of America.”

Michelle Bachmann said that President Barack Obama’s most lasting legacy would be “the establishment of lawlessness in the United States of America,” at which point a man in a Revolutionary War uniform and tricorn hat waved a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag and shouted “Right!”

Through all the racket, though, came the quieter but distinct voices of serious people with serious ideas. This was surprising, not only because political discourse in the United States has grown so rancid but also because — as Thomson’s approach to music criticism suggests — everything good comes as something of a surprise.