Politics has never been gentle. John Randolph of Roanoke once said of two of his colleagues, congressmen Robert Wright and John Rea (pronounced Ray), that the House possessed two anomalies "A Wright always wrong; and a Rea without light."
And crowds were vicious in previous generations too. When Earl Warren was seeking reelection as Governor of California he said: "I'm pleased to see such a dense crowd here tonight." A heckler interrupted him: "Don't be too pleased governor, we aint all dense." But what's different today is that while politicians' invective and hecklers' shouts used to at least bring smiles to the faces of spectators, today it's mostly unimaginative and unprintable.
Today hecklers on the right at anti-Obama rallies carry signs such as "Don't Make the U.S. a Third World Country – Go Back to Kenya;" "We Came Unarmed (This Time);" "Barack Obama Supports Abortion, Sodomy, Socialism and the New World Order;" and "Muslim Marxist." The other side is just at bad. At anti-Bush rallies during the last presidency, people held signs like "Death to Extremist Christian Terrorist Pig Bush," "Save Mother Earth, Kill Bush," and "Bush is the Disease, Death is the Cure." No wit there (or even proper punctuation.)