A right-wing group has recently announced its plan to burn, beat, or hang Lindsey Graham in effigy in 'peaceful demonstrations' to protest his vote to confirm Kagan to the Supreme Court. This is due to Kagan's pro-choice stance. "Since Mr. Graham uses babies as pawns in his game of politics," states Terry, "we will play some 'games' in front of his offices."
Here we've got a right-wing group going after a right-wing Senator because he voted to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court. There's nothing wrong with that--you didn't like the nominee for whatever reason, so you wanted your Senator to vote against them. Happens to me all the time. But the vitriol in this particular attack is worth noting: I do not, for example, go out and burn my senator in effigy when he doesn't vote my way. Graham, despite that this particular group doesn't seem to like him, is one of the more effective Senators on that side of things. By occasionally cooperating with democrats, he is able to get away with pretending to cooperate with democrats in order to sabotage whatever they're doing--sometimes by sabotaging the negotiations to secure his cooperation so that the democrats look like they are being unreasonable, and sometimes using the promise of cooperation as a carrot to get some ridiculous nonsense stuck in a bill before voting against it anyway.
Kagan's confirmation was largely predestined; she might be a soulless careerist but she's no flaming liberal, and absent something concrete to hang their objections on and rigid party unity in a filibuster, the republicans couldn't really stop it. Cynically considered, he was simply using a vote for the inevitable to maintain his disguise as a senator willing to cross the line on occasion--a disguise which enables him to do far more damage to democratic goals than any number of blatant refusalists. Charitably considered, perhaps he really couldn't find anything particularly objectionable about the nominee after all.
But this apparently wasn't good enough for the enforcement of orthodox thought: "If a man brings the enemy into your camp, he is helping the enemy; when he helps the enemy, he has become the enemy, and must be treated as such." Any cooperation, any concession to the inevitable, any compromise (no matter how preferable that compromise is to getting nothing whatsoever) is unacceptable. This particular instance is an abortion-as-litmus-test pro-lifer, which is almost understandable, but the call of 'RINO!' gets thrown around on the right with increasing frequency for all manner of offenses (including having an affair with a female staffer).
By this point it's dropped into a feedback loop of people trying to one-up each other in their 'true'-ness, trying to out-hyperbole each other only to start believing their own hyperbole, and that is a pattern that is hardly unique to the American right in 2010. I've seen it in many movements, but let's pick three: communism, fundamentalism, and black metal. Revolutions, says a friend of mine who lived through the worst of the communist times in Bulgaria, devour their own. The Communists were the most vicious in going after other communists who departed from the orthodoxy, or who weren't communist enough--you see it in Orwell as well, as many of the original leaders of the revolution were subsequently denounced, tried, and executed. You see it again in men like Mohler, who took over Southern Seminary, initially purged the liberal elements, but in increasing paranoia and self-righteousness set the bar for acceptability ever higher, condemning at last not only the 'enemy' but also his own fundie forebears who were not extreme enough. And you see it in the shit-fest that most black metal has become: ever more spikes, ever weirder paint and more dead animals, all in the name of being more 'trve' and 'kvlt' than everybody else.
Movements begin as an idea, an inspiration--a spark of fire, that, like all fires, one day burns out, leaving only the ash of image and institution, motion deprived of impetus and reduced to mere momentum, and soon those who follow it forget that there was something more.
The original black metal bands wore corpsepaint and spikes, it is true, but that was incidental, a means to the end of conveying a vision and not an end in itself. When the vision was forgotten image replaced it; those things which had once been symbols of something beyond themselves became mere facts of the expected costume, signifying nothing, and the whole scene went to hell.
Communism sought liberation, but lost its soul in the inevitable failure and betrayal of its ideals, and so loyalty to the system replaced the goals which the system had been designed to further.
Fundamentalism prepared itself to do battle against the rationalist enemies of the faith which had arisen in the century before, but on finding that the foes which it had armed itself to fight no longer cared, its adherents simply turned their weapons on each other.
And now Lindsey Graham is the enemy because he voted for an Obama nominee. The precise vocabulary is irrelevant: RINO, heretic, betrayer of the revolution, not a trve kvlt Repvblican. No matter what form the label takes, the meaning is the same.