I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. For it's precisely the pursuit of ideological purity, the rigid orthodoxy and the sheer predictability of our current political debate, that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face as a country. It's what keeps us locked in "either/or" thinking: the notion that we can have only big government or no government; the assumption that we must either tolerate forty-six million without health insurance or embrace "socialized medicine".
It is such doctrinaire thinking and stark partisanship that has turned Americans off to politics. This is not a problem for the right; a polarized electorate - or one that easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate - works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government. After all, a cynical electorate is a self-centered electorate.
But for those of us who believe that government has a role to play in promoting opportunity and prosperity for all Americans, a polarized electorate isn't good enough. Eking out a bare Democratic majority isn't good enough. What's needed is a broad majority of Americans - Democrats, Republicans, and independents of goodwill - who are reengaged in the project of national renewal, and who see their own self-interest as inextricably linked to the interests of others.
I think he makes a good point about how those who have an ideological interest in making government as ineffectual as possible have nothing to lose by degrading the tone and respectability of political debate. I remember arguing almost exactly that point myself many years ago in a college paper, back when I was a Rush Limbaugh-loving, Republican/Libertarian that thought that the best government was as little government as possible. So if partisan polarization was a way of limiting the government's influence, I thought that was a good thing.