There's a very common idea out there that the Republican Party is more radical than it's ever been, and that if only we could have Republicans like we used to have, we could get things done. It's an easy concept to swallow whole without chewing. It gets digested and enters the deliberative bloodstream where it then affects every other idea in the body politic.
There are several problems with this idea, of course, the first of which is that it's recursive. Jonah Goldberg takes this aspect head on in a recent column. Simply, Democrats and the media have always complained that Republicans were too radical and used to be better. If they ever admit that current Republicans are reasonable, they neuter their arguments for their own policies.
Another problem is that it assumes radicalism on the part of only one side. This simple bias was portrayed perfectly on this week's episode of Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin's new series about a cable news production set in the recent past. In preparing coverage for the November 2010 election and Tea Party takeover of Congress, the anchor, Will McAvoy, says "Can you imagine Humphrey or Kennedy standing for a photo-op with Bernardine Dohrn or Allen Ginsburg?" To respond directly, no, probably not. However, fifty years later, Barack Obama launched his presidential campaign in the home of the exact same Bernardine Dohrn (and her husband, Bill Ayers, formerly of the domestic terrorist organization, Weather Underground).
Why is it again that radicalism is only accused of one side?