What is extremism? To most of us, the word extremism evokes images of Nazis, the KKK, radical Islamists, and other such groups that take their beliefs to the outermost edges. Because of the association between the word “extremist,” and acts of radical violence, the concept of taking an idea to its outer edges is generally viewed as dangerous or unnecessary. However, this is all a cultural concoction, based on fear. The word “extremist” has been hijacked, as well as the core concept of standing on one end of a spectrum of ideas.
I was watching CNN yesterday at the gym. Anderson Cooper was speaking with several guests about Ted Cruz’s 21 hour filibuster. One of the guests began to speak at length about how the American people have become afraid because the Republican Party has been hijacked by extremists. His tone suggested that he not only viewed Ted Cruz as an extremist, but that Cruz, by nature of being labeled as such, was inherently bad.
In his book The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, Jonah Goldberg writes about how the word “extremist” has been painted as evil. He argues that centrists think themselves more sophisticated than so-called extremists. The following is an excerpt:
“There’s a certain Goldilocks bias to discussions of politics: If Papa Bear’s porridge is too hot and Mama Bear’s porridge is too cold, then Baby Bear’s is always just right. It must work the same way in politics, right? Centrists, moderates…independents: they all suffer from variants of this confusion. The ‘extreme’ Republicans argue 10. The ‘extreme’ Democrats argue for 0. Therefore the smart, sensible, reasonable position must be 5. Well, the Wahhabis want to kill all the gays and Jews. The Sufis don’t want to kill any gays or Jews. So the moderate, sensible position must be to kill just the gays, but not the Jews…the point is that sometimes the ‘extreme’ is 100 percent correct, while the centrist position is 100 percent wrong.”
Goldberg goes on to claim that self-titled “independents” are simply not paying attention. He argues—and I agree—that behind the faux sophistication of centrists lies a confusion and a slap-dash understanding of politics.
The Democrats are great at labeling. They create slogans and campaign phrases designed to keep voters from actually thinking. In addition, they use the word “extremist” to demonize Conservatives. What does holding “extreme” views actually mean? According to Liberals, it means that Conservatives stand on the fringes, or outer edges of opinion, far away from the center, which—according to their made up rules—means that Conservative beliefs are far from “normal.” And if Conservatives aren’t normal, they must be weird, and probably wrong.
Using the center as the definition of normal or typical is completely arbitrary! First, the Democrats are certainly not in the center. Second, why is the center so sought after? There are valid reasons to take sides. Most issues have such stark differences that to have an opinion at all means taking a side. For example, you either believe abortion is murder, or you don’t. Where is the middle ground on that? You either believe in socialism or capitalism; they are not compatible. There are those who claim otherwise, but they are wrong. Those who attempt to meld bits and pieces from each philosophy into a cohesive whole have no idea how the world works. Centrism is naïveté at its height.
The word “extremist” has been hijacked by the Left to scare voters away from Conservatism. But when broken down, extremism simply means having an opinion. Labeling the center as “normal” is beyond arbitrary, it’s incorrect. Once we set aside the foolish idea that the center is political ground zero, extremism suddenly doesn’t mean much—and it doesn’t sound that scary.