I enjoyed this opinion piece by Neal Gabler that postulates that conservatism has been transformed "into a religion with all the absolute certainty of religious belief." (To read the article, click on title of this post.) I agree that the beliefs of the far right have become a certainty in the minds of the followers, but I disagree that this is the exclusive purview of conservatism. Those on the far left are zealots in the same degree.
The difference between the right and left is the domination of radio by the far right and the singlemindednes of the Fox News network. These right wing voices drown out the same belief in one's own rightness on the left.
We tend to think of political beliefs as stretching out a straight line. With moderates in the middle of the line and the true believers on the left and right.
I would argue we should think of political belief as a circle. On one side of the circle lies moderate belief. On the far side of the circle resides fanatical belief. Right meets left at the point of moderation and at the point of fanaticism. Moderates see each other as brothers. Fundamentalists of the right and left see each other as evil incarnate, but they are closer to each other than to the moderates.
What America has to a fear is a shift of its citizenry to the side of fanaticism. Tip the circle too far to one side and even those only slightly removed from moderation will slide to fanaticism. Such a shift could destroy our nation.
Those in the middle need to take a stand and acknowledge the danger. On this I would fault the Republican party. Their rhetoric has become extreme, i. e. death panels and government takeover of fill-in the-blank. GOP elected officials need to take a stand for the middle. They do not need to agree with the Democrats, but they do to make their disagreements less extreme. Democrats should not allow their rhetoric to escalate to that of far right jihadists. Representative Grayson's comparison health care problems to the Holocaust is an example of such an escalation. Such language must not be used.
Read the L.A. Times commentary as applying to both sides. Acknowledge the danger to our nation from both the left and right.