Some conservatives, I’m one, recognize that there are people on the right whose conduct and rhetoric contribute to the poisoning of our political discourse, but believe that people on the left are much worse. Some liberals acknowledge that there are people on the left who contribute to the poisoning, but believe that folks on the right are much worse. I suppose it’s natural to have an exaggerated sense of the faults of one’s political opponents and a diminished sense of the faults of one’s allies.
We see a bit of this in a column by liberal writer Dana Milbank published by the Washington Post in the wake of the shooting of a Family Research Council employee by someone angry at the organization for its stand on marriage and sexual morality. But to his very great credit, Milbank pulls no punches in directly and sharply criticizing people and institutions on the liberal side for smearing as “bigots” and “haters” those who disagree with them.
In fact, Milbank goes so far as to say that “the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, is right to say that the attack is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end.” The entire piece is worth reading. Milbank’s central claim is sound. But beyond that, his making it displays impressive integrity. He surely knows that it will earn him a hefty share of the abusive rhetoric he rightly deplores.