In defense of 'extremism'

  • Follow Editorials

Conventional wisdom says it's America's political extremes that are the problem with the body politic. If only people could meet in the middle, we'd all be better off.

We're not so sure it isn't the mushy middle that's the problem.

There is a certain percentage of Americans who exist on the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. For argument's sake, let's just arbitrarily say that 15 percent of the electorate is rabidly liberal and 15 percent is extremely conservative. Yes, surveys show committed conservatives are about double loyal liberals, but that's not the point here. So, just for this particular discussion, let's assume 70 percent of Americans are in the middle.

That's considered in many circles, and certainly in the major news media, to be a high compliment, a positive character trait -- that someone could go either way on any issue at any time, makes decisions on a case-by-case basis, votes "for the person, not the party."

But is that such a good thing after all? Let's look at that.

The result of having a mushy middle is huge swings in national character. One year we're a conservative country, the next we're looking essentially at socialized medicine.

That's not being "reasonable." That's indecision to the point of schizophrenia. That's not knowing yourself.

It affects every aspect of our lives, too. How can businesses plan their financial futures in such a volatile political climate? We seem to move from revolution to revolution. The pendulum swings so quickly back and forth it's dizzying.

The bottom line is, America is simply confused about what it is and what it believes. America has always been a country of ideas; it simply doesn't know what those ideas are anymore. And the reason is that so many Americans seem to be so clueless about what they believe.

Say what you want about diehard liberals and conservatives, but at least they have moorings. They know what they believe and they act on it.

Honestly, isn't the notion of "extremism" overblown today? Haven't the media sold us a bill of goods -- the hokum that anyone who has a solid set of values and unwavering core principles is an "extremist"?

Is that really being extreme? Or is it just knowing what you believe?

Is it so much better, so high-minded, to not know?

Consider this real-life example: A 20-something who was interviewed recently admitted he wanted to vote for libertarian Ron Paul, but ultimately would have voted for Barack Obama last year -- if he'd gotten around to voting.

Come again? How do you get from a libertarian to an ultra-liberal without passing go and collecting $200? Paul sees almost no role for government; Obama has never met a government role he didn't like. And this voter was torn between them? That's like being torn between a salad and a slab of ribs.

And it's emblematic of a voter who has no clue what he believes.

So are the "retired electrical engineer who became a Democrat to support Mr. Obama" and "a teacher who voted for Mr. Obama because she was fed up with President George W. Bush," two Iowans expressing disenchantment with Obama in recent interviews with The New York Times .

Judging from the frenetic back-and-forth of recent American elections, there are millions more where they came from.

Being flexible is one thing. Being out to lunch on the biggest issues of the day -- the size and scope of government, national security, abortion and more -- is something else entirely.

Your beliefs may change over time.

But at least have some.

Comments (83)

Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
carcraft
20670
Points
carcraft 11/04/09 - 06:02 am
0
0

After eight years of the lame

After eight years of the lame stream media making up stories, lies, and negative reporting, questioning, of Bush people really thought he was horrible and wanted a change. The press having daily orgasms and tingles up their legs when Obumbler spoke. The press never asked Obumbler hard questions ie.why are your records sealed, why do you have no conservative friends, what do you mean the constitution is flawed, what do you like about Rev Wright what don't you like etc. Many in the electorate , from the press's estimate, assumed he was slightly left of center. Now with the reality the people were hoodwinked, the electorate is waking up. Watching Ried and Pelosi denigrating the American people they work for, change is in the wind. Obumbler can hold on and do some good if he moves to the center like Clinton did. I don't think Obumbler can do that because communistic socialistic policies are at his core, Obumbler is an ideologue. Many Americans are ignorant of political philosophies and go for the slick marketing. That is what sold many on "change we can believe in". Many of these people do not really understand the cess pool politics of Chicago Obumbler climbed out of.

carcraft
20670
Points
carcraft 11/04/09 - 06:03 am
0
0

Blagojivich lifted the rug

Blagojivich lifted the rug and gave America a peek at Obumbler's political cradle.

southernguy08
415
Points
southernguy08 11/04/09 - 07:05 am
0
0

The recent elections in NJ

Unpublished

The recent elections in NJ and Virginia were just the beginning. 2010 elections will bring more "change," and the Libs will be whining like spoiled children being denied candy in a store. I'm loving it! Oh, I'm having too much fun here. Back to work.

overburdened_taxpayer
116
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 11/04/09 - 07:11 am
0
0

carcraft - don't you know

carcraft - don't you know that to Obama's supporters the Blagojivich incident was an "isolated" incident? Surely Obama would never employ tactics such as those. Say it ain't so.

WhippingPost
1
Points
WhippingPost 11/04/09 - 07:14 am
0
0

It's much easier to choose a

It's much easier to choose a skin color or "free ride" or charming reading style than to take a firm stand on right and wrong. Having absolutes in your life gives you a foundation of confidence that transcends the position of using name calling to respond to reason. The goal of our liberal government schools is to produce "good citizens" that chant left wing mantras and use the message of NPR and CNN as their opinion and that follow the teachings of Colbert, Stewart and Maher as examples of how "real" people think. The undecided "independent middle" is really the uninformed (or misinformed) middle that has yet to gain any pertinent life experience. Unfortunately, those with no stable foundation are easily tricked with a good p.r. campaign.(see 2008 elections) As the misinformed middle gains the life experience provided by our current president, they learn that they made a horrible mistake and have to deal with it until 2012.

goody
0
Points
goody 11/04/09 - 07:40 am
0
0

A very sensible LTE and will

A very sensible LTE and will be assaulted by the "name callers" on the fringe left. It would be nice to read sensible, logical, and sane responses. It would be nice, but it won't happen, this board will fall into name calling, and a lot of statements from both "far sides". Nothing will really change. SOS again.

JRE
62
Points
JRE 11/04/09 - 08:00 am
0
0

The editorial is way off base

The editorial is way off base in defense of "extremism". The middle is not mushy or a compromise but usually where the truth is. Most extremist use some far out example like the Ron Paul supporter mentioned to support their position but that is not representative of the true situation. Rarely are the extremist able to support their positions when they have to move beyond talking points and have to deal with specifics or practicalities.

Rhetor
851
Points
Rhetor 11/04/09 - 08:23 am
0
0

JRE makes very good points.

JRE makes very good points. The extremists stand for something, but their vision--"visions" might be more accurate--disconnect them from reality. The outrageous lies from the right wing (Obama is a Muslim, Obama is a commie, Obama was born in Kenya, Obama was born in Canada, the Dems want to pull the plug on Grandma) show how desperate they are, and how false they are. The most basic principle of conservatism, and I mean real conservatism as opposed to the lunacy on talk radio, is that change is risky and should be approached cautiously. This principle applies to liberals and reactionaries alike. I remind the ACES of this simple principle.

orgpsych
0
Points
orgpsych 11/04/09 - 09:00 am
0
0

This is just more

This is just more self-serving conservative "logicking" about the fact that everyone doesn't agree with their rabid right-wing agenda. It's either the REAL Americans (conservatives) or the rest of "you people." (That's a Rushism, by the way.) The problem with being rabidly and exclusively one or the other is that the crackpot extremists somehow always manage to get into positions of power and leadership (probably because they gave up civility in government) and you end up taking thier off-the-grid and irrational ideas as "truth." Then, woe to the rest of "you people" who don't see their OBVIOUS superiority. But, all delusions aside, America IS a land of ideas that defy one single political party to define. THAT, sir, is why we have such a large middle/moderate group.

Rob Pavey
520
Points
Rob Pavey 11/04/09 - 09:10 am
0
0

A very wise strategist made

A very wise strategist made this observation long ago: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Riverman1
70477
Points
Riverman1 11/04/09 - 09:18 am
0
0

I didn't find Ron Paul unable

I didn't find Ron Paul unable to support his positions. He backed everything with the logic of America being a free and capitalist country. That's the truth and not extreme. I didn't support him because he was/is not a charismatic leader. Get a Ronald Reagan saying the same things and more would get the message. Try to dispute ANY Ron Paul position and see how the logic is lost. By the way, maybe we now understand Obama's attacks on Fox News. They knew the trouble they are in and panicked foreseeing the results of the NJ and VA elections.

justus4
93
Points
justus4 11/04/09 - 09:33 am
0
0

The article misses two

Unpublished

The article misses two critical points: Doing whats right and speaking the truth. Unfortunately neither has a place in such a wicked country and here are examples: "a country of ideas" is referenced and considered a positive, but for whom? Are these GOOD ideas or BAD ideas? To have laws requiring others, under the threat of violence, to provide free labor, while enriching certain individual's bank account is a BAD idea - then distort that atrocity into "I had nothing to do with it" is again, a BAD idea. The founding of the country is actually suspect, so trying to nail down a particular "value" is a waste of time. And most importantly, the country has really only been a TRUE Democracy for 54 yrs...all the years before were example of tyrannical individuals posing as a government...just ask the Native Americans or the African slaves.

southernguy08
415
Points
southernguy08 11/04/09 - 09:39 am
0
0

Wicked country JUSTUS? Funny,

Unpublished

Wicked country JUSTUS? Funny, thousands every year risk their lives, some lose their lives, trying to get to this wicked country. But hey, if it's so terrible here for you, Delta is ready when you are. Please give us some examples of free labor in this country. If you're referring to prisoners, take a look at what it costs to house, feed, cloth, and fence in these dirtbags. As for true Democracy for only the past 54 years, isn't that about the time Eisenhower, a Republican, was elected?

TechLover
15
Points
TechLover 11/04/09 - 09:45 am
0
0

Va hasn't elected a governor

Va hasn't elected a governor from the same party as the president since 1977. It has also been split 20/20 over the past 40 years between both parties. In NJ, Corzine won in 2004 against Doug Forrester, who had won the Republican primary with only 36% of the vote. NJ also has had Republican Governors 12 of the past 20 years. Corzine had never been particularly popular and had approval rating as low as 35% and disapproval 40% in 2006. His approval held around 35% in the recent electon yet still managed to get around 45% of the vote. The real story is the 23rd Congressional District in NY. Granted Owens won with only 49.1% of the vote, but Republicans have held the seat since 1994 and have won with a minimum of 60.5% of the vote.

bdittle
78
Points
bdittle 11/04/09 - 09:47 am
0
0

This is lame journalism even

This is lame journalism even for an editorial. Just calling the middle mushy doesn't make them so. The centrist have as much moorings as anyone, but you won't find them on talk radio or on a cable news panel because their discussions tend to be rational and practical (and less entertaining on TV). So to back up your "mushy middle" theory, you use a 20-something year old? Come on AC, I even expect you to be better than this!

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 11/04/09 - 09:52 am
0
0

I guess you forgot about the

I guess you forgot about the Congressional seat Southern? I rather have a Congressional Seat than a Governor's any time.

TechLover
15
Points
TechLover 11/04/09 - 09:52 am
0
0

WP(Patricia Thomas): We on

WP(Patricia Thomas): We on the left take Colbert, Stewart, and Maher for what they are, comedians. Sad that you on the right can't tell that Rush, Hannity, Beck, etc. are the same.

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 11/04/09 - 09:55 am
0
0

It's a shame that even with

It's a shame that even with their Messiah( Rush) and their Savior ( Palin) campaigning, they still lost a seat that they held for 15 years.

Irish
0
Points
Irish 11/04/09 - 10:03 am
0
0

It's a shame that after the

It's a shame that after the president spent tax payer money to make five trips and dozens of ads the incumbent in New Jersey went down in flames after the Chosen one campaigned for him...the Vp campaigns for another big loser ........Can't wait to vote again in 2010

OBX
0
Points
OBX 11/04/09 - 10:12 am
0
0

Ispy Obama is 0 for 3 1.

Ispy Obama is 0 for 3 1. Olympics (major embarrassment) 2. Va Gov. and 3. NJ Gov. I don't think Palin nor Rush carry the clout that a sitting Pres. carries.....And yet it wasn't even close! At least when Bush campaigned for someone they WON!!!

Riverman1
70477
Points
Riverman1 11/04/09 - 10:15 am
0
0

It's obvious what the

It's obvious what the election results mean. No reason to debate it. Obama had best come to the center, ala Bill Clinton, if he wants to be around next term. The health care bill is dead according to Harry Reid. It's time for Obama to move on to other things and establish himself with the independent centrists.

Riverman1
70477
Points
Riverman1 11/04/09 - 10:32 am
0
0

Justus, a little philosophy.

Justus, a little philosophy. Determining what's right and what's truth has been debated since man could think. Don't let the government answer that for you. But you finally start to demonstrate understanding in your post when you ask whether ideas of government are good or bad. To have laws that require slavery we would both agree are bad. Would you consider making people work to give a large part of their earnings to the government bad too? Let's get away from the slave mentality in every form, including subjugating ourselves to the state under some misguided idea it's best for all on the plantation, especially the master.

southernguy08
415
Points
southernguy08 11/04/09 - 10:36 am
0
0

You let that comfort you

Unpublished

You let that comfort you ISPY. 2010 elections will be here soon, and more "change" is coming. You think unseating a sitting governor in a blue state like New Jersey is a small thing? I guess if it's a Dem being unseated, just ignore that, eh? Keep posting ISPY, we're all getting a good laugh!

OBX
0
Points
OBX 11/04/09 - 10:39 am
0
0

I can't wait to go vote

I can't wait to go vote today, Creigh Deeds get's my vote.
Posted by jackfruitpaper833 on Tue Nov 3, 2009 7:51 AM How did that work for you Farrakhanfruit???

grouse
1580
Points
grouse 11/04/09 - 10:41 am
0
0

The Chronicle doesn't know

Unpublished

The Chronicle doesn't know the difference between schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder. They are not the same. The pendulum has always swung back and forth.

justthefacts
17989
Points
justthefacts 11/04/09 - 10:41 am
0
0

Tech, good rationalization.

Tech, good rationalization. You did it almost as well as the commentators on CNN last night. Come on now, did you record it and copy it down??

Riverman1
70477
Points
Riverman1 11/04/09 - 10:46 am
0
0

All this pendulum talk

All this pendulum talk reminds me of Poe's story, The Pit and the Pendulum. I have no doubt when it's close enough to start cutting, it's going to be swinging left.

robbie1
0
Points
robbie1 11/04/09 - 10:50 am
0
0

I just have one question...

I just have one question... Is Pres Obama the ribs or the salad? I'm hungry. Time for dinner.

bdittle
78
Points
bdittle 11/04/09 - 11:00 am
0
0

I know this "extreme" theory.

I know this "extreme" theory. It comes from military field manuals when talking about nation building and insurgency. You have 15% of the extremist fighting for one side (like AQ in Iraq) and 15% fighting for another side (like the Sons of Iraq). Then 70% of the population who want to live in security are waiting to see who to get behind. The military must support the 15% that helps them and hope to convince the rest of the population to get behind the movement. U.S. politics is nothing like this scenario. I grade ACES an F- for attempting to apply this theory to American politics where it is the centralist that actually control the political swing.

Steve Wylie
3
Points
Steve Wylie 11/04/09 - 11:08 am
0
0

The amusing aspect of this

The amusing aspect of this editorial is that it represents an absolutist's viewpoint of the world completely unaware of itself. People who can intellectually tolerate ambiguity are capable of judging a situation, person, or idea based on its merits within the context in which such occurs. People who cannot tolerate ambiguity, people who see in black and white, in other words, or absolutes, have defined the world according to pre-established rules for all classes. As a person capable of ambiguous thought, I would argue that neither side is correct, but instead that each manner of thinking has places in which it is usefull. There is always a bottom line, and absolutists are usefull in drawing that line. However, we cannot presume that we know everything just because of our limited experiences; ambiguous thinkers are useful in fleshing out novel approaches to problems. Extremists in the modern media are not conservative or liberal, they are the hoaky jokes who run around calling Bush a dictator and Obama Hitler. They contribute little to the debate because their decision making skills are inferior while their ability to replicate nonsense memes is powerful. They confuse things.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Pedestrian killed on Mike Padgett Highway

A pedestrian was struck and killed Thursday night on Mike Padgett Highway. The victim is the fifth pedestrian to be hit - and fourth to die - on Richmond County roads in the past eight days.
Loading...