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American conservatism is fixated on the idea that the country’s most numerous and powerful group identity—white, right-leaning Christians—is under relentless attack by the “cultural elite”. These nasty, moronic comparisons of tea-party Republicans to terrorists are high-octane fuel on the right’s raging identity-politics bonfire. And that’s the thing. Why are liberals so eager to invigorate the right by justifying its grievances? It completely baffles me.

I can think of two answers: habit and cynicism.  By the first explanation, party-line extremists say stupid and extreme things because they don’t know how not to.  By the second explanation, party-liners deliberately try to empower the fringe elements on the other side; they want the debate to move to its extremes so that they–extremists–can gain in prominence.  Regardless of cause, this is a dynamic that thinking people across all ideologies need to oppose, as it does real damage to discourse, to public policy, and ultimately to everyone’s well-being.

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