This is precisely what I'd worried about. This editorial - Politics of Attack - from the NYTimes.com lays out the problem in detail. The level of hate has been rising steadily over the past few years and has reached a fevered pitch. I wondered when the racist tendencies that have been lying just under the surface would pop up like bubbles in boiling soup. I guess we know now. The most recent thing that I've heard is "off with his head," referring to Obama. McCain referred to Obama as "that one" in a derisive tone. Now I don't think that is necessarily racist in and of itself (thought I suspect it might be, but that's another post**). For me it's just indicative of the level of partisan hate that's been rising.
I was in college in the 80s. My roommate (still a close friend whom I'm lucky to have) was a Republican. I was a Democrat. Both of us were active in our respective college groups. We'd often talk politics, she being a political science major and I a minor. We'd go to see politicians together, of both parties, and talk about their performances afterwards. The most memorable of these was seeing then-Vice President Bush. She drove and we discussed it on the way home, laughing and joking as we always did.
Let's compare that to the daughter of a friend of mine. My friend commented that her daughter would be glad when the election was over because then her roommates would speak to her again. See, Daughter was voting for Kerry. After the election, everything was fine.
I'm not sure exactly why we've had this decline in civility and polarization. All I know is that there are about two conservatives that I can talk to with respect and civility. WE need to get back to that point. The sooner the better.
** I have heard from some that "that one"is code for a person you'd like to call a n---- but you can't because that person in within hearing range. I can't confirm on deny that, but it's certainly worth thinking about.