Originally Posted by AemJeff
There are two parts to that answer. In the late sixties, when construction workers and rednecks were iconic conservative archetypes, some of those guys thought beating up inoffensive longhairs was a sport, and patriotic to boot. They called that "punching hippies." The term was used as metaphor by a left-wing blogger last year, during the run-up to the election, to describe the Obama administration's arms-length relationship with the left, despite their support and ability to raise money for the Administration. The term seems to have caught on.
This is interesting and I wonder (despite the reference to the conservative archetype) if there's any connection to this and the difference between the left and the right that TS notes above.
That is, as I keep noting with some confusion or frustration whenever people start talking about "the Left" or the "absence of sufficient leftwing reaction" or to Obama's betrayal of "the Left" (sometimes "progressives" can be inserted for the various uses of "the Left" above), it's not clear what "the Left" is
. Same goes for "the base." And in particular it's not clear that people who are "left" on one set of issues are on all. The way the Dem coalitions and more broadly "the Left" works in this country, they often are not. In particular, there's long been tension between the economic left (the New Deal/labor aspect of which is represented in part by the archetypical "conservative" groups identified above) and the social and foreign affairs/ACLU left, for just a few examples.
It's possible to see the turn by the Dems toward social issues and war policy issues as a dismissal of both the values of the traditional economic left and, just as importantly, the focus on the traditional bread and butter issues. Subsequent realignments brought into the Dems a "left" that may have been more, well, leftwing or progressive on lots of these other issues, but who were less concerned about or more open to compromise on lots of the economic issues, in part because they often come from a different class background. So the tension is inherent.
There's an inherent tension in the right too, of course -- the values voters and "free market uber alles" (i.e., pro corporate, libertarian-light) voters have plenty to disagree about, but this disagreement has always been something that was explicit to those who crafted the coalition and thus something they wanted to hide or find a way to deal with, and have generally done so pretty successfully. (Less cynically, you could say that they've done so simply by finding issues to focus on that values voters who would be left on economics prioritize over econ, and which the libertarian-lights just don't care about, but I think it's more complicated and cynical.)
Edit: I guess my point is that I don't think the phenomenon on the left is simply a Sister Soulja moment kind of thing. I think it's born out of genuine splits. On the right there's much more hestitation about admitting to splits, for lots of reasons, which is why people who criticize other rightwingers in any serious way are basically written out of the movement (see Frum, Conor F.), there's such defensiveness about even calling out the most egregious and people like Jonah Goldberg get attacked for being too willing to do so when they do in the "don't want to cause offensive to so and so who I love, but" way they do, and it's so remarkable when there is a rebellion of sorts (whether it be the reaction to Palin that was still pretty weak).