Who are the Extremists? Part 1

This entry is part 20 of 47 in the series Blog1

Both sides of the political spectrum call the other side extremists.  This has been excessively used as a non thinking method of dismissing the argument from the opposing side and avoiding a rational response.

It does bring up good questions for consideration that have not been effectively addressed by either political side.

(1) Has the middle, and thus the extremes, changed in the last generation?

(2) How would we determine what is the middle and the extremes today?

(3) What then are the middle and extreme positions of today?

Question One: The Moving middle.

Both sides have often claimed that their opponents are more extreme right or left now than any time in history so let us take a look.

This is an easy one to determine.  All we have to do is go back to the 1950’s and compare the accepted norm to today. Any objective person has to admit that the middle has moved toward the Left and not the Right.

If we are keeping score as to who has won the ideological battle in real terms the Left has indeed triumphed. Let us list several areas where the middle has moved in the direction supported by the Left.

(A) More tolerance of sex, nudity and drugs.

(B) We have moved toward bigger, not smaller government.

(C) We have moved in large leaps toward social programs supported by the Left such as Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, free prescription drugs, the passage of Obamacare etc.

(D) Regulations. The Left supports many more regulations than the Right and there are manifold more regulations today than in the 1950s. These come not only from many bills passed through Congress but from agencies such as the EPA, OSHA, EHS, ISA, DOT, ADA and others.

(E) Liberal rights. I won’t cover freedom from slavery, the right to vote, equal rights for men and women, which both sides presently support along with the vast majority of the public. However, gay rights, affirmative action, minority quotas, reparations for slavery, payments to American Indians for redress, benefits and laws for the disabled, right to an abortion and others.

Concerning these liberal view of rights the country has shifted much further toward them than they were in the 1950’s.  For instance, no politician a generation ago would have supported gay marriage or them serving openly in the military.

The nation is obviously shifted toward the Left concerning liberal rights. It is true that some Republicans helped with this shift but that merely makes the victory of the Left more complete.

(F) Taxes and spending.  The Left generally supports higher taxes and more spending whereas The Right supports lower taxes and less spending.

The Right has achieved some federal tax cuts but these have been largely offset by other taxes. Here’s a site that says the average person pays about 70% in taxes.

Overall spending has liberally increased. Federal taxes have gone up and down, but numerous other taxes, including FICA, have either been added or increased.

Conclusion:  Overall those who say the country is more conservative or right wing than ever are incorrect.  The midway point between the two extremes has shifted significantly to the Left since the 1950’s

Question Two: How would we determine what is the middle and the extremes today?

There are three middle points to consider. The first and what should be the most obvious is the middle point in our present day views. Let us take regulations for example.  The Libertarians want no regulations at all, the conservatives want only essential ones, the liberals even more than we have now and the far left of socialists/communists want to regulate most everything. What is considered the middle by most people are essential regulations with a few extra tolerated for the sake of safety.  This is more than the Right wants but fewer than the Left does.

The second point lies in the past. If we were to go back to the Wild West we would see that there were almost no regulations and few people wanted the government to impose anything but a few laws to protect from physical harm.  The middle back then was close to what we would consider anarchy today. If we were to take a conservative and liberal from the 1950’s and bring them to the present we would see that the conservative would find our middle view on regulations to be outlandish and they may even be too many for the liberal of that era.

Thus we see that the middle point between the views of the Left and Right change with each generation.

The third middle point is that point between the two extremes that makes the most sense.  Sometimes both the Left and the Right are in error and the approach that makes the most sense, and would be most effective, is neither view but a logical approach somewhere between the two.  This most effective point is rarely exactly in the middle.  Sometimes it is near the extreme and sometimes near the middle – only good judgment can reveal it.

Let us take global warming as an example.  On one extreme some on the Right are unconcerned about human caused release of CO2. They feel that the earth can handle any amount we release into the atmosphere.

The other extreme on the Left are panicked over it and feel we must institute a cap and trace policy that would cost trillions to fight global warming while denying the introduction of more fossil fuels to the third world which could hinder their progression to greater prosperity.

The common sense approach of the true middle fits in with neither of these views. The Right needs to realize that the introduction of extra CO2 does have an effect.  It may not have the disastrous effect proclaimed by the Left but it is wise to make a transition away from a continued increase in the use of fossil fuels.

The Left needs to realize that we need a good economy to continue to come up with continued innovation. If we damage the economy by siphoning off trillions to fight global warming when the tactics devised may accomplish little then we may destroy the power for private industry to invest in alternative energy.

The common sense middle then demands that we indeed move toward developing alterative low emission fuels but not destroy ourselves in the process.

Now we move on to the third question:

What then are the middle and extreme positions of today?

You would think that the answer to this would be a simple one but it must not be so for many see extremism as common sense and label a moderate approach as extreme.

Let us go through a few of the extreme accusations of today and see if they are justified. Let us begin with accusations against conservatives.

(1) Bush 43 was an extreme right-winger.

Analysis: This accusation was made for political purposes as most on the Right saw Bush as being way too liberal except for his support of a strong defense.

(2) Anti abortionists are also extreme right-wingers.

There are several things odd about this accusation. First there are more pro-life people than there are pro-choice. According to a Gallup poll taken June of this year 50% of the people consider themselves pro-life while only 41% say they are pro-choice. So we have the odd situation of the minority view pointing at the other side polling nine points higher yet calling them extremists.

Here’s another odd thing. The minority expressing the pro-choice view are almost never called extremists by the Right.  Conservatives strongly disagree with them but can’t seem to get away with labeling them as extreme.

Analysis:

Neither side with general view of pro-choice or pro-life should be called extreme, especially if they have 40% or more of the people agreeing with them.

Extremes in both camps can be singled out, however.  On the Right, those who oppose abortion even in the case of rape or danger to the mother could be called extreme and on the Left those who support late term or live abortions can legitimately be labeled extreme.

(3) Conservatives were labeled as extreme because they supported the Catholic Church’s right to not include contraceptives in their insurance plans. Such people were painted as extreme regressives, waging “a war on women” by attempting to deny them contraceptives.

If the accusations of the Left were accurate then the conservatives would deserve the label of extreme in this matter. Instead a distorted picture has been painted of the Right to make them look extreme and out of touch for political purposes.  The Left knows that almost all conservatives use birth control and have no desire to deny its use to others, but they make the extreme accusation anyway.

The real argument is not whether women should have access to birth control but whether the state has the Right to force a church into actions that run contrary to religious views.

While it is true that most Catholics use and believe in birth control, church doctrine has not been updated in this direction.  Conservatives, Catholic and non Catholics, believe that a change in doctrine must be done by the church and not forced by the state.

A Fox News poll taken in June reveals that 41% of the public support the Catholic Church’s position on this. As I said earlier it is not logical to call a position held by 40% or more of the people as extreme.

Analysis: To achieve civil discourse we should not distort the position held by others so it can be labeled extreme. Catholics standing up for their rights is not extreme, especially when contraceptives are readily available for all who wish to attain them. If I have a candy shop I should not be forced to sell vegetables.  It does not mean I want to force people to not eat vegetables just because it does not fit my business model.

(4) Immigration

Conservatives who wish to enforce present immigration laws are called extremists who are anti-immigration and racists.

It is strange indeed that those who accept the previous laws passed by both parties are called the extremists while those who defy the current laws avoid this label almost completely.

Labeling conservatives as extremists and anti immigration is disingenuous indeed and flat out untrue.  Time and time again the accused tell the media that they are pro immigration but just anti illegal immigration but their message seems to fall on deaf ears.

Another wrong-headed accusation is conservatives are purported to want to round up all the illegals like the Nazis did the Jews and force every one of then to return to Mexico.

This is another flatly untrue accusation.  I do not know of anyone with this extreme view.  The furthest most go is promoting the strange idea that the law should merely be enforced when an illegal immigrant comes into the hands of law enforcement.

If indeed the current laws are unjust or extreme then the correct course is to not demonize those who support enforcing the law, but to CHANGE the law.

Analysis: If one takes away the falsehoods in the accusations here then no extremism exists.  Any extremism involved is in the accusations themselves.

(5) Conservatives and libertarians are seen as having such extreme views on race that they are regularly called racists by the Left.

On the contrary, it appears that when race is brought up is usually done by the Left.  The Right is so often criticized as being racist that they are presently gun-shy and most do everything in their power to be politically correct.  This is not enough for their opponents, however, who get a lot of mileage from promoting the stereotype that the Right is racist.  The Democrats receive around 90% of the black vote and the majority vote for other minorities, so this tactic seems to pay off.

It is strange indeed that the party of Lincoln who freed the slaves has been successfully labeled as racist by the party that supported slavery, started the KKK, wiretapped Martin Luther King, and opposite civil rights legislation from Eisenhower.

Whatever the cause, the Right often finds itself backed in the racist corner defending itself.  Since the Left can find such little real racist ammunition to throw at them they have to improvise.  I do not know how many times I have heard the Left accusing the Right as showing their racism through “code words.” In fact I just heard a new one. Any Republican who calls Obama “cool” is racist.  Can you imagine that?  One of the most desirable words to be called (cool) is now a racist word.

Many examples of such code word accusations from the past can be dredged up. After being a moderator in a Republican debate Juan Williams wrote this:

“The code words in this game are “entitlement society” — as used by Mitt Romney — and “poor work ethic” and “food stamp president” — as used by Newt Gingrich. References to a lack of respect for the “Founding Fathers” and the “Constitution” also make certain ears perk up by demonizing anyone supposedly threatening core “old-fashioned American values.”

So… whenever conservatives talk about the entitlement society, a poor work ethic, the food stamp president or complain of a drift away from the principles laid out by the Founders or the Constitution they are using code words to attack minorities, especially blacks?  Give me a break.  There is absolutely no evidence to indicate that they were thinking of anything but Americans as a whole.

Believe me, if this nation were 100% white and in the situation it is now the words would be the same.  Conservatives would still be criticizing “the entitlement society.”

If I were a minority I would be offended at the idea perpetuated by the Left that I am lumped in with freeloaders and the whites are excluded from this accusation in their minds.

The supposed using of these code words is called “Dog-whistle politics” by the left. Only a sensitive ear can discern the code according to them. For instance, they say a conservative mentioning “states rights” really has little to do with states rights but reflects a desire to return to either the days of slavery or lack of civil rights for blacks.

On top of these unfair accusations Conservatives are even accused of supporting backs such as Herman Cain, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas and others for racial purposes. The Left says the Right doesn’t really support them for their talents but only as a cover to mask their racism.

How can we ever heal as a society if we do not give others the benefit of the doubt and take them at their word?  I know that whenever I have used any of theses supposed code words that race has not been in my mind at all.  When I speak of states rights I am merely speaking of states rights as they apply to all, black, white, red brown etc. Race matters not.  I have two beautiful black grandchildren and certainly do not wish to speak against them or any other minorities using code or any other words.

Analysis: These racist accusations are perhaps the most outrageous and mean spirited attacks that exists in politics and should be brought to a halt immediately. If someone clearly calls for an act that harms a minority, fine, call him on it but let us cease attacking to demonize or because of nebulous code words.

(6) Spending.

Let us suppose you had a friend who was a big spender.  He made good money but for every sixty cents he made he spent a dollar. The worst part was that he placed that extra 40 cents on the dollar on his credit cards until he was almost maxed out.

Because you like the guy you are concerned that he is heading for a big crash landing where he could lose everything.

What do you do?

You approach him and recommend he make some cuts in his spending and get his finances under control.  You tell him that he cannot go on borrowing 40 cents on the dollar much longer.

And how does your friend respond to your sincere concern?

He calls you an extremist and then tells you of all the good things he has bought with that borrowed money and how it would be wrong to sacrifice to cut his borrowing.

You are beside yourself. Your friend is the one who is going to the extreme in his borrowing yet he is the one calling you an extremist just for giving some common sense advice. This is amazing hubris, you think.

The real extremist is easy to spot in this story but apparently not so in real life. Our country brings in abundant tax revenues yet like the guy in the story it finds wonderful things to do with extra money it can borrow. Anyone who tries to set this country on a common sense path economically, and recommends spending cuts, is called an extremist by the Left.

Analysis: The racism accusation indeed seemed outrageous, but this one tops it. Obviously the real extremists are those who support borrowing at interest, 40 cents on the dollar.  This has to change.

 

Copyright 2012 by J J Dewey

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