Orcinus has an excellent post on how rightwing hate rhetoric is poisoning political discourse:
One of the really offensive aspect of the right-wing drumbeat of eliminationism is that so many of its purveyors -- notably Rush Limbaugh and his many imitators, including Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin -- try to slough off criticism of the nastiness of the things they say and write by pretending that it's just "entertainment," or merely a "joke".
While I would agree, I think those on the left make a mistake when we ourselves take these people seriously. Ann Coulter is not an intellectual or a thinker--she's a Nazi poster girl. But Orcinus is right, we have to come to terms with the effect these buffoons are having on civil discourse.
The crude reality, of course, is that the things they say are not only deeply personal, they play out in the real world by poisoning our personal lives as well as our public discourse. Pretending afterward that it was all "just kidding" is palpable disingenuousness. And the right-wing response -- claiming that liberals are responsible for the poisoning of the public well -- is especially offensive because it not only serves to disguise, but provides a positive justification for, the escalation of this kind of rhetoric into real action.
Orcinus then discusses thuggery targetting New York's Orange County left-leaning city councilwoman Gail Soro. The fate of the American republic may largely hang on the number of principled people in the middle and on the right (I'm told they do in fact exist) who won't stand up for this, and of course on the determination of those on the left who are willing to take a stand against it.