The screeching polarization of American political and cultural life in recent years is exacting a toll. Debate has been debased. Contempt and hatred for those with opposing views is now the norm. While some on the right have criticized their own side -- think of Rick Perry and Jeb Bush challenging immigration opponents, or conservative columnists taking on some talk radio hosts -- liberals have been shamefully silent about the excesses committed by Democrats.
That's why it gives me particular pleasure to report that two liberal columnists have recently defied this trend. One is my old friend and sparring partner Ruth Marcus (we've known each other since the fourth grade) of the Washington Post, and the other is Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times.
Under the headline "Democrats' revolting equal-pay demagoguery," Marcus writes, "It is simultaneously possible to believe that women are entitled to equal pay and to not support the Paycheck Fairness Act." Marcus blasted the president for saying, "I don't know why you would resist the idea that women should be paid the same as men," and Sens. Harry Reid and Debbie Stabenow for similar pandering. Noting that she supports the Paycheck Fairness Act, Marcus continued, "But the level of hyperbole -- actually, of demagoguery -- that Democrats have engaged in here is revolting."
Though he apparently could not resist seeding his praise with little poison pellets, Kristof, too, has taken a step toward social comity by acknowledging that conservatives "have been proved right about three big areas of social policy." Those are: 1) the importance of strong families, 2) job creation, and 3) school reform. Kristof argues that Republican solutions to these problems are all wrong, but his willingness to acknowledge, for example, that "Democrats, in cahoots with teachers' unions and protective of a dysfunctional system, were long part of the problem" is enough to make you rub your eyes and check the byline.
These two pieces are like small shoots of integrity pushing up through cracks in the conformist concrete that has smothered dialogue in recent years.