I don’t think people should pretend to like people they dislike or avoid saying what they mean. But I do think people should be careful to avoid a certain kind of tendentious rhetoric. Some of the participants in our political debate are quite stupid, some are corrupt, some are dishonest, and some combine multiple unattractive qualities.
What should be avoided is the tendency to dramatically overstate the ideological stakes in our political debates. The choice between Democratic candidates and Republicans ones is important and has important consequences. But in the grand scheme of things, you’re seeing what’s basically a friendly debate between two different varieties of the liberal tradition. I think efforts to elide the difference between the religiously inflected populist nationalism of George W Bush and the religiously inflected populist nationalism of Mullah Omar are really absurd, as are the efforts by Glenn Beck to elide the difference between the progressive income tax and Joseph Stalin. This stuff is mostly unserious, but I also think it’s potentially dangerous. If you really thought prominent American politicians were plotting to fundamentally subvert the American constitutional order tand supplant it with a totalitarian dictatorship, you’d be prepared to countenance some pretty extreme countermeasures.