Extremism in American politics is a temporary position

“…some Tea Party-backed candidates and other Republicans have taken positions that many voters consider extreme, like shutting down the government to get their way, privatizing Social Security and Medicare and ending unemployment insurance.” - NY Times

Extremism is probably the buzzword today in politics. By arguing against extremism from your opponent, you paint yourself as the defender of what is just and right. However, the thing to keep in mind is that extremism today is mainstream thought tomorrow.

For example, the idea of “medical marijuana” was extreme for many, many years. Today it’s becoming more and more common. Even more people are coming out in favor of legalization where as a decade ago it was an “extremist” view. The idea of legalizing any drug was a sign of being soft on crime and criminals. Today, it’s soccer moms and even police officers who are taking that stance, not just libertarian whack jobs.

Ideas like privatizing social security sound extreme because the propaganda machine has done a good job of painting it that way. However, as more and more people enter into social security with fewer and fewer people contributing to it, the Ponzi scheme will inevitably fail. What happens then? Well, for one, the system will need serious revision at least. That could mean privatization, or it could mean scrapping the system. Either way, something is going to have to happen and whatever it is will be something that the New York Times says is “extreme”.

Extremism is in the eye of the beholder, at least when it comes to American politics. The idea of government getting out of people’s daily lives doesn’t sound extreme, since that’s kind of what the United States is all about. However, when you argue against seat belt laws, or against the Department of Homeland Security, you get labeled as “extremist”. People forget that we lived just fine without this stuff.

I’m not going to pretend that every extremist idea will automatically be acceptable at some point in the future. However, you should never discount a movement simply because their ideas fall into a category of what you call “extreme”, especially when a logical and rational argument can be presented. They might be bad ideas, but not because they’re “extreme”. When you discount a political movement because of their views by calling them “extreme”, you alienate all those mainstream folks who share some of those views.

Frankly, my own opinion is that government involvement in private enterprise except in cases of fraud is extreme. Government telling me what I can do with my own body, when it hurts not a single living soul besides myself, is extreme. Trying to tell me, a law abiding citizen, what kinds of guns I can own without begging permission is extreme. Creating an educational system which treats all kids like they’re the same, regardless of the individual needs of the child is extreme. The idea of destroying the Fourth Amendment in the misguided attempt of curbing terrorism is pretty extreme.

However, I don’t hear the New York Times arguing against those as being “extremism”. I guess now they’re mainstream…just like so many other ideas have become over the years.


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