Conservatives used to brag that we see our political opponents as wrong, while they see us as evil. While that has never been perfectly true, conservatives are increasingly falling into the same habits as the Leftists we condemned in years past. Worst of all, we do not see Leftists as evil as much as we see each other as evil. This has been no more obvious as the battles between #NeverTrump conservatives and Trump voters.
That has continued since the election. While there is some simmering leftover resentment, the battles between “Never Trump” conservatives and Trump supporters are mostly over. But the way far too many conservatives see Leftists does not bode well for the future of the Republican Party or the conservative movement, when internal conflicts inevitably come. The most vicious conflicts are always between people who are the closest to each other, and any police officer will tell you the worst calls to take are domestic violence calls.
The problem is that too many people treat politics like religion, complete with cult-like devotion, seeing the other side as demonic, and furious denunciation of “heretics” on your own side. Criticism of your favorite political figure is blasphemy and must be treated as such. This goes far beyond devotion to principle or defending your own side from unfair or false attacks, it is defending the honor of your messiah against sacrilege. It goes hand-in-hand with a complete refusal to ever recognize where your own party could be wrong.
We have to do better, and the only way to do that is to focus our energy on policy and principle. Party loyalty is fine to an extent, because of the reality of our political system, but it must always be secondary to principle. We can call out cult behavior in others, but the only real way to clean up this mess is to become better ourselves by recommitting ourselves to our ideals, not a specific political leader or a political party.