I recently wrote about leftists' hatred for conservatives as people, not merely for conservative ideas. Demonization of opponents is a fundamental characteristic of the left. It is not merely tactical; they believe people on the right are bad. (Here's a test: Ask someone on the left if active support of California Proposition 8 -- retaining the man-woman definition of marriage -- was an act of hate.)
A related defining characteristic of the left is the ascribing of nefarious motives to conservatives. For the left, a dismissal of conservatives' motives is as important as is dismissal of the conservatives as people. It is close to impossible for almost anyone on the left -- and I mean the elite left, not merely left-wing blogs -- to say "There are good people on both of sides of this issue." From Karl Marx to Frank Rich of The New York Times, this has always been the case.
In the left's worldview, conservative opponents of affirmative action cannot be driven by concern for blacks -- opposition is animated by racists; conservative opponents of illegal immigration are animated by racism and xenophobia; opposition to abortion is a function of sexism; President Bush went to war for oil and American imperialism; and conservative supporters of retaining man-woman marriage hate gays.
This is not true of elite conservatives. Leading conservative columnists, leading Republicans, etc., rarely depict liberals as motivated by evil. Conservatives can say "There are good people on both sides of the issue" because we actually believe it.
Almost any contentious issue would provide proof of the left's need to attack motives, but the proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero provides a particularly excellent example.
I have not come across a mainstream leftist description of opponents of the mosque/Islamic center being built near ground zero that has not ascribed hate-filled, intolerant, bigoted, "Islamophobic" or xenophobic motives to those who oppose the mosque. Contrast this with how mainstream opponents of the mosque describe the proponents of the mosque and you will see an immense divide between right and left in the way they talk about each other.
Here are but a few examples of how mainstream proponents of the mosque describe opponents and their motives:
Michael Kinsley, editor at large, The Atlantic: "Is there any reason to oppose the mosque that isn't bigoted, or demagogic, or unconstitutional? None that I've heard or read."
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times Blog, Aug. 19, 2010: "The far right wing has seized on the issue as an occasion for fanning hatred against Muslims."
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”