David Brooks writes a very fine article in todays NYTimes on this theme: We have gone from the cultural wars to the presidency wars, and this is very dangerous stuff. The clash is not over philosophy (or, as he says, values) or policy, it is over legitimacy. So when Dean speaks of the Republicans as enemies, or says that what is at stake here is democracy itself, this is--unfortunately--too meaningful. It implies a perpetual war--driven by anger--among politicians; domestic politics now being conducted as if it were foreign relations. Is there any trust left? Are we still members of the same constitutional order? It can be hoped that Brooks is wrong, and I do hope it. It may be that this warrior mentality is just a manifestation of the natural (and not simply bad) anger that one party or side has against the other. But he is implying that this hatred is more than that.
Certainly, the upcoming presidential election cycle will decide some of these things, both in how the parties and the candidates talk about what is really important, how citizens will be persuaded or not, and then, just maybe, their decisions at the polls will dampen this dangerous enthusiasm among partisans of what, at the moment, may seem like different worlds. Warriors should be transformed into citizens, again. A certain amount of trust is necessary in this republican regime.