A sure sign of excess, then, is when rhetoric becomes crack.
One regular habit of liberal blogs is bemoaning the harshness of right-wing rhetoric. It’s hard to have a policy discussion with someone who is dehumanizing you.
But an appetite for that kind of rhetoric is yet-another indication of excess, a condition in which a Political Thesis has exceeded its reach and is about to fall. In other words, harsh rhetoric is a good thing for those it’s directed at — it shows they are winning.
Harsh rhetoric always exists, of course. What makes the difference is its popularity. Glenn Reynolds isn’t harsh enough for conservatives. They prefer Michelle Malkin. So that’s what the media gives them.
Compare it to the left in the 1960s. They seemed to be getting their way, but this wasn’t good enough for so many, and thus we had SDS, the Black Panthers, the Weathermen. Each step left the far left increasingly marginalized. The right is going through a similar evolution right now.
TV, which cares only about audience, notices this. You don’t need a majority to make a show, just a minority committed enough to tune in. So in a time of excess they seek out excessive speakers. Glenn Beck, for instance. Calling Al Gore a "Nazi" is stupid, but it excites his audience. Same thing for Ann Coulter insulting the 9/11 widows. Why is she allowed back on TV again-and-again? Ratings. Who’s cheering, and why? That’s the key.
None of this is to say liberals should not be outraged, or that they
should not fight back. It’s by fighting back in a principled manner
that you solidify support among those in the center, the people who
decide elections. The key, when the crisis comes, will be to have unity
among the non-haters, so we can build a politics of consensus.
Everything’s moving along just fine.