A reader writes:
"It's impossible to watch the vast ignorance, hate and extremism in this country right now and not almost despair. At a time of extraordinary challenges, the center is not holding."
I agree wholeheartedly with the first part of the statement - not so much yet with the last.
I think the cited piece hits the nail on the head. Extremism makes news and gets a back bencher a name among followers. But I don't see much evidence that the center is crumbling, just that the extremists are louder, more strident, and more publicized. Bachmann is a good example. Despite being only in her second term, her publicized vocal stridency has made her likely the best known congressperson in Minnesota (my state). But, she represents one of the most Republican districts in the state and barely survived last election while her predecessor, a much lower profile Mark Kennedy, was reelected to that seat easily. I think that she will continue to make a normally safe seat competitive like other well-known strident right wing legislators of the past (e.g., Marilyn Musgrave, Robert Dornan).