Autobiography within the frameworks of Berlant’s intimate publics becomes a telephone game. “Normative” expectations become warped as informational integrity becomes attenuated. One person says something, then another person has to say something “more real” (i.e. more extreme) as a way to maintain authority within a shifting political framework.
This doesn’t always happen. People like Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Adlai Stevenson all remained true to their pre-established rhetorical aims without resorting to name-calling or demonization, and they maintained their followings because they were seen as dependable arbiters of moral behavior. Bernie Sanders could also be seen to follow the pattern of staying consistently true-to-message, whereas Donald Trump’s rhetoric has shifted since he began running for president (e.g. his shifting opinions on Hilary Clinton).
The reason for the shifting rhetorics is the need to “claim the high ground,” so-to-speak. Not in terms of ethics, but in terms of the performance of ethics.