Mailed in to PGR (Professor Glenn Reynolds):
For years, Democrats have had an Alinsky-driven “anything goes” mindset. The Activist Left stages violent protests, demonstrations at private homes, vandalism, voter intimidation, and now SWATing… and the Institutional Left runs interference. This is how Brett Kimberlin is out of jail, why Bill Ayers has tenure, and how the New Black Panther Party got their charges dropped.
Republicans, at least the Old Guard, responded by saying that “we’re better than that”. And you know what? Being better than that has not only helped the Left immensely over the years, it’s legitimized those tactics. Part of what makes these ethical lines work is a kind of Mutually Assured Destruction. Hitting below the belt doesn’t help if the other immediately responds in kind. It’s a zero-sum escalation, so you just don’t go there. It’s only when you know you can cross the line with impunity that you get tempted.
What we see with the new generation is a willingness to imitate the most effective tactics of the Left. Many of us are former lefties who learned from the pros and then switched sides. The rest of use are young and don’t see the point of playing Charlie Brown and the football. What made Andrew Breitbart so terrifying to the Left isn’t that he did anything new, it’s that they’d never been on the receiving end of it before. On one hand, it’s horrible that our politics includes tactics like these at all. On the other hand, if they’re going to be used anyway by the lefties, we might as well fight fire with fire. The gripping hand is that responding in kind robs these tactics of long-term effectiveness and in the long run helps to re-establish ethical norms.