Via Sullivan, great post by Conor Friedersdorf on what he sees as the futility of the politics of anger. He's certainly right about the idea that many hard-core partisans believe that their side would win if only they were as ruthless and passionate as those on the other side.
It's easy to see why this happens. First of all, there's a major media bias in favor of overestimating the importance of any kind of campaign tactics and strategies. After all, reporters want their stories to be on the front page, and TV correspondents want their stories to appear on TV. They therefore have a bias in favor of believing that the events of the campaign -- speeches, ads, attacks -- are important to the outcome of the campaign, even though in fact most of those events have little to do with election results (particularly in general election campaigns). Moreover, reporters should be covering the day-to-day events, which are often (at least in my view) just good stories, even if they don't effect the election outcome. But in order to get the good stories, reporters need to talk to the campaign operatives who generate them -- and those campaign operatives have a professional bias and interest in believing that their work matters. Indeed, they have a bias in favor of doing splashy things such as irresponsible, over-the-top attacks. If you run a quiet, by-the-books campaign and win, odds are the candidate will get the credit. If you do something flashy, then the operatives are more likely to be noticed. And attacks are especially good for that, because (generally) candidates are only too happy to farm out the "credit" for vicious attacks to the paid help.
So the 1988 campaign becomes all about how Lee Atwater ruthlessly used the Willie Horton ad to take down an overly meek Michael Dukakis, and the 2004 campaign becomes all about how Karl Rove ruthlessly took down an overly passive John Kerry with the Swift Boat stuff. The vicious attacks in the other direction (say, George H.W. Bush implying that Bill Clinton was a dupe for the Soviets, or Jimmy Carter attacking Ronald Reagan as a warmonger) are forgotten, because no one thinks that they worked -- even though there's precious little evidence that the winning attacks "worked", either. We remember the attacks that worked, and then when our side fails to win, we chalk it up to insufficient toughness, to not being willing to be as nasty as the other guys.
To put it another way, people like to believe that agency matters -- that is, they constantly underemphasize structural factors such as the effect of the economy on elections or the difficulty in winning Congressional votes beyond a party's strength in Congress. When one's side doesn't win, it's easy to believe that either they didn't really want to win, or in the sports cliche, they didn't want to win badly enough. Yelling and screaming is a good way to avoid that particular accusation, even though rationally there's really no case that extreme demonstrations of emotion are likely to be helpful.