The revelation that mail bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc had an extensive footprint of support for President Trump and showed tremendous anger directed toward Democrats and the media has ignited the debate over the role of political rhetoric in instigating violence.

Now, there is an argument to be had over whether vitriolic speech can tip a mentally unstable person over the edge, channeling whatever rage exists toward targeting political enemies. There is, however, a principle that individuals have responsibility for their own actions, and that public figures can't be held culpable for every nut that takes their words the wrong way.

The downside of having this argument in a situation like the current one is that it easily just devolves into a partisan argument about assigning blame. In such an environment, arguing that Trump should refine his rhetoric becomes tantamount to blaming him for these potentially dangerous packages. It also loses sight of the fact that regardless of whether or not rhetoric played a role in these specific actions, tamping down the hostility in our political discourse would be a good thing.

The problem we face in our current politics is not primarily political violence initiated by crazy people being tipped over the edge, which thankfully is relatively rare for a country of 330 million people. The main problem we face is that otherwise fairly normal people are being driven into white rage by politics. The discourse on social media and on the airwaves goes beyond people passionately disagreeing about an issue, it involves coming to despise the other side, to see them as bad faith actors devoid of all morals, evil, and hell-bent on destroying the country. The other side should be cursed out, shouted down, driven from where they eat and sleep.

Unfortunately, it's a downward spiral. Politicians stoke the flames, which generates more anger, and then they demand politicians who will be more uncompromising and brutal to the other side. This, in turn, makes the other side feel more justified in turning up the heat. And so the process goes on and on. Trump is an outgrowth of the belief on the Right that previous generations of Republican politicians were too weak to stand up to the vicious Democrats. In turn, his unapologetic, smashmouth style of politics fires up his supporters while convincing Democrats that they have to fight fire with fire.

There are many theories given for why this is happening. My colleague Tim Carney has a book coming out called "Alienated America," which looks at the social isolation caused by the breakdown of civic institutions. As a libertarianish conservative myself, I see all of this anger as the natural outgrowth of a system in which the federal government has gained too much power — with judges, lawmakers, and regulators making decisions that have dramatic consequences for people's daily lives. Liberals might look to issues involving race, class, and inequality.

But whatever the causes, we should have room to debate with one another in a civil manner. If not, then we'll find it impossible to address our nation's problems, because each side will be pursuing a scorched Earth strategy, causing an endless paralysis.