Even as a 28-second cellphone video of an explosive April 1 confrontation in Palo Alto over a Make America Great Again hat surfaced on Thursday, a Stanford University political science professor who has researched political polarization called such behaviors "abnormal."
The video, recorded by a cafe customer and provided to the Weekly on the condition that it not be published, shows Palo Alto resident Rebecca Parker Mankey screaming at an elderly white man wearing a red MAGA cap as he walks down the alley outside of the Starbucks on California Avenue.
"Go! Leave! Nobody wants you here," Mankey, clad in all black, yells at the top of her lungs as she stalks after him. "Get your f------, Trump-loving MAGA hat out of my g--damn town, you a------!"
She continues the tirade against him as she enters the parking lot at the end of the alleyway: "It is NOT OK to be a racist!” she shouts angrily. “It's NOT OK to be a Nazi!"
The person who filmed the video, who asked not to be identified, wrote in an email to the Weekly, "I (am) not a fan of people being harassed in public places regardless of their political views, and I think everyone inside Starbucks felt the same way.
"What really surprised me was that the Starbucks staff didn't do anything," the person added.
"You can't preach your views as better ones when you are acting the exact same terrible way as what you are protesting against. In a way, MAGA hats to me are a testing time for the opposite end of the spectrum, to show where their values are," the person said.
The customer recalled hearing the man in the MAGA hat, a regular at the coffeehouse, talk loudly about politics at another time.
"But does it gives anyone the right to harass you? I think absolutely not," the customer said.
Such extreme political confrontations are increasing, but they are far from the norm, according to Morris Fiorina, a Stanford University professor and Hoover Institution senior fellow.
"This incivil behavior is unusual. It is not a trend," Fiorina said by phone on Thursday.
Most ordinary people don't engage in this type of behavior, whether it's undertaken on behalf of the political right or the left.
"The population as a whole is just going about their business and raising their kids. They only get into politics when they have to," he said.
Those who exhibit these extreme behaviors have let "partisanship become a political identity," he said.
To them, politics is no longer just about different points of view on policy. Opposing views become a personal threat and insult, he said.
"It's extremely abnormal," he said. "It's so counterproductive. It just alienates the kind of people you want to persuade."
The misconception that these extreme behaviors are widespread has been fanned by social media and television, and that's unfortunate, he said.
Fiorina added that research shows 40 percent of the population claim not to have a party affiliation in the current environment.