I have been arguing for some time that the oughts are marking a political and cultural shift as profound as that in the sixties. You can even trace it in the election results year by year.
Reagan = FDR
Clinton = Eisenhower
George W. Bush = John Kennedy
Iraq War = Vietnam War
9/11 = Kennedy Assassination
The first major departure from the script is that--thank God--Bush did not get assassinated in his first term. Now we see how that changes things.That had the result that Goldwater (= Dean) did not win the nomination for the opposing party. I guess Scranton did (= Kerry).
Coming soon: a cultural sea change like the sixties. But in what is now called the "conservative" direction.Three years to go 'till the Summer of Love.
As to the breakdown of civility and the political hardball in recent years, I see that not as a permanent trend, but the kind of thing that happens at any transition, in any democratic revolution. Stands to reason: when a new view emerges, first you necessarily have a dramatic split in views, because not everyone accepts the new view at the same pace. Next, the establishment, feeling embattled, fight fiercely to preserve its power and privilege.
We saw it all in the Sixties; we’re seeing it again now.
The new view is the complex of attitudes currently called "neo-conservatism." As it was the "New Left" in the Sixties.