As much as we bemoan our polarized politics, dislike for one's political opponents is one of the most powerful engines that drives political participation. It isn't necessarily wrong to be mad or think that the other side is nuts -- all of us do, at some point or another. But that belief can lead partisans to some places that don't do them any favors when it comes to making their case to the public.
If Democrats and Republicans agree on anything, it's that the other side is radical. Each party looks at the other and sees people driven by a dangerous ideology that would prove disastrous were it to be realized.
There may be no precise measure of radicalism that everyone can agree on, but there are a few clear markers. Radical ideas are, when introduced, usually supported by only a small minority of people. They propose to fundamentally alter things, not by making adjustments to the existing order but by transforming it. They would affect large numbers of people, if not everyone, and do so in profound ways. Radical ideas can be wise or foolish, and of course, they're a moving target; today's radical idea becomes tomorrow's mainstream position, or vice versa.
Dick Cheney's In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir is a book as dull and unimaginative as its title. Readers wouldn't have expected the former vice president and his daughter Liz (his co-author) to be a pair of subtle prose stylists, and they won't be disappointed. Slog through the early chapters on Cheney's life growing up in Wyoming (he fished, he played football), and you'll eventually reach more momentous events, which Cheney is able to render equally lifeless.
That's in part because of the way Cheney confronts the controversies that have attended so much of his public life. His descriptions of events tend to run as follows: Some things happened. Our critics said we were wrong. But they don't know what they're talking about, because we were right.
(AP Photo/LM Otero) Texas Governor Rick Perry waits to be introduced at a gun shop in Dallas, Thursday, September 16, 2010.
In 1999, as he was preparing his run for the White House, George W. Bush made an important purchase. The son of a president and grandson of a senator, born in Connecticut and schooled at Andover, Yale, and Harvard, bought himself a ranch. Over the next ten years, he would repeatedly bring photographers out to document him clearing brush, always with Stetson atop his head and gigantic belt buckle firmly in place.
The 2012 presidential race will be dominated by discussion of the economy -- why it collapsed in 2008, why it continues to struggle, and what we might do to improve it. Since Republicans are generally opposed to large-scale government intervention to improve things, their solutions tend to revolve around taxes. They'll say that cutting government spending and trimming regulations will help, and they'll justify various other policy moves they favor in economic terms, but in today's GOP, taxes is where the economic action is.