So operatives in both parties probe voters to find just the right issue hot button, then they turn the results over to message meisters who are skilled in distilling just the right combination of words to set people off.
Those words get worked into speeches, interviews, and Tweets until everyone is in a froth. Then they move on to the next set of magic words. Watch enough MSNBC and Fox News and the words are obvious.
The current set is "Obama is the most divisive president in history." Ed Gillespie wheeled those words out on behalf of the Romney campaign just yesterday on "Meet the Press." He made the comment in reaction to an Obama campaign ad praising the president's action in tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden.
Now, to be honest, I could quote similar message management on the Democratic side, though they tend to be a far less disciplined lot. But this all smacks of a futile exercise in figuring out "who started it" and I gave that up when my kids reached adulthood.
While it's true that few politicians have yet to reach that level of maturity, the exercise still seemed futile. But now two accomplished political observers on the right and left sides of the political aisle have come to our rescue.
In a Washington Post article well worth your time, Thomas E. Mann, of the leftish Brookings Institution, and Norman J. Ornstein of the rightish American Enterprise Institute convincingly pin the blame on Republicans.
"We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional," they write. "In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
"The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."
There's lots more. Take a look.