Targator's excellent diary on new research about how human brains process political dissonance is worth more discussion. The main thesis is this:
Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones. The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data.
As I noted when the diary was first posted, I fully admit that I can barely stand to listen to wingers talk. I've given that matter some serious thought and arrived at my own 'partisan' explanation:
I don't want to hear what wingers have to say because I fundamentally don't trust them. They twist reality and distort truth to match their ideologies. And they are incapable of honest introspection.
The fact is, I used to be aggressively independent in my political practices. I'd listen openly to ideas from any quarter and respond without defensiveness. I didn't care whether an elected official was a Democrat, a Republican or a Communist, I'd give them all the benefit of my criticism and praise in equal measure, looking always for the common ground. As it turns out, I was moderate to a fault.
Because what I learned the hard way is that the Republican party, pushed inexorably toward the right by Christian arrogance and corporate greed, has chosen to put partisan power ahead of public good. This is most evidenced in the spectacular double standard around presidential conduct. Wingers took Bill Clinton on with a vengance for lying about Monica, but they are stunningly silent on the disaster that is George Bush. They are tolerating his criminal war in Iraq, his record deficits, his gross incompetence and his cronyism with little more than quiet hand-wringing.
Democrats, on the other hand, have a history of being self-critical in ways that probably don't serve us well. Our big tent is a chaotic place where unity has been less important than doing what we believe is the right thing. Progressive North Carolinians, for example, have called Jim "Delay" Black out as a shady character at best and a crook at worst. Many of us want him out of his speaker's position, and some of us want him out of office. We've challenged Easley on his lazy leadership. We've pushed on Price and Watt to get more engaged in restoring our Democracy. And we've done it all in the public eye.
So until I see wingers taking accountability for their own failures, you'll get no more mister nice guy from me. I'm leaving moderation to the moderates and fighting fire with fire.
I may not have $100,000 to burn every week on my ego like Art Pope does, but I do have my 2 cents. And I'm pissed.