Before I leave the topic of the nature of political discourse (something that I have a great interest in), I think I have one more post in me.
Discourse, in my view, can only occur between people who believe that the other side is worth listening to. I certainly understand - and even appreciate - a bit of sharp riposte. Nor do I deny that the reality of politics affects the propensity of (and language with which) we are willing to dump on people on our side of the tracks.
But if you really think that your side has a monopoly on intelligence, moral character and honesty, you are unlikely to say anything worth listening to. One of the ways to guard against this, I think, is to try to understand (and to assume that others will understand) the argument to which you are responding. As I am sure I have blogged before, I encourage students to do that because I think this is the most effective starting point.
The key, it seems to me, is whether you try to do that and not whether you are just as quick to criticize folks on your side of the study hall or whether you use all of the same adjectives.
But I also know that some people read blogs for affirmation. Local bloggers like this guy (who I pick on because I think he could do better)have no interest in responding to folks on the other side because he doesn't think there is anything worth responding to. But if you want an adjective-laden example of a white guy playing the dozens on conservatives, it's there for you.
It's there that the rhetoric can get overheated and people can get mislead about the nature of the other side. If you're main purpose is to entertain people who already agree with you, then some exaggeration is required and, really, is OK.
Still, there is a line there. And a need to remember that when we exaggerate to get a laugh, we're still exaggerating. If you come to believe - really believe - hat conservatives have no soul and that liberals hate their country, you need to rethink things.