[T]he partisan mind sees what it wants to see. Somehow it’s always easier to insist that the other side’s crazy posters and Hitler analogies and intimations of violence (or even banalities about “saving the Constitution” and “taking back” the country) are evidence of crazy insurrectionist eliminationist madness that threatens to drown the republic in blood, whereas your own side’s excesses are just, well, excesses the work of a few bad apples, no big deal, nothing to get excited about, and probably blown out of proportion anyway. Somehow there’s always a reason why your side’s counter-majoritarian maneuvering is the very essence of democracy, whereas when the other side does it it’s a sign that American government is hopelessly broken.
There have been rhetorical and visual excesses in Madison from the hard left. But the difference is: they are essentially backing the status quo, whereas the Tea Party wants a radical change. Democratic leaders seem constantly trying to distance themselves from their more, er, enthusiastic supporters. Republican leaders often embrace the rhetoric and imagery of their fringe. I think that makes a difference. No one, for example, with the extremist rhetoric and worldview of Sarah Palin would make it to the veep slot in the Democratic party. Imagine: Obama-Sharpton 2012! Or Obama-Sanders! And if they did, they would lose votes, whereas Palin almost certainly increased the performance of the GOP ticket last time around.
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