Extremists of Left and Right

November 25th, 2009

By Tom Carter

spectrum-circleIt’s been said that the political spectrum isn’t really a straight line, with the most extreme right-winger standing out on one end and the most extreme left-winger out on the other end.  In reality, it’s more like a line curved to form a circle, with the extremists of left and right standing shoulder to shoulder.

While the political positions of those on the far left and far right in America are different in terms of substance, the value of this analytical construct goes to attitudes and methods.  Extremists of the far left and the far right share a certainty that the American political system is broken, and they’re convinced that those who disagree with them are not only completely wrong but determined to destroy the country. 

Extremists see those they oppose as evil beyond redemption.  They also share destructive agendas, often expressed in the view that the existing political order, or subsets of it, must be destroyed and re-built. 

Extremists also believe in absurd conspiracy theories with a certainty that makes most of their fellow citizens uncomfortable.  You don’t have to look far to find their favorite conspiracies — they’re in blogs, in chain e-mails, in the media, woven into movie and TV scripts, and propounded by often ill-informed advocates. 

The strength of American politics is that there aren’t many people at the true political extremes.  However, too many are too close to the extremes these days, keeping bad company with radicals and reactionaries who would prefer to destroy rather than to build.  If it’s worse than in the past, the reason may be a surfeit of communication — fools with computers shoveling nonsense onto the internet and too many media outlets giving exposure to any idiot who might improve ratings.

In the coming years, as we struggle through wars, economic crisis, and potential financial collapse, we must reject extremist views of both the left and the right.  It’s particularly important that liberals moderate the far left, while conservatives moderate the far right.  We’ll never achieve the nirvana of bipartisanship that some politicians have promised, but we can certainly maintain civil discourse and work together on reasonable solutions to the problems that face all of us.

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6 Responses to “Extremists of Left and Right”

  1. larry |

    As a conservative extremist(according to your definition)there is no way I’ll ever meet the criteria set down by liberals and left wing zealots. If you can tell me truthfully that nothing the democrats or Obama has done really bothers you, I’d have accuse you of not caring.

  2. Harvey |


    When extremists are in power (as they are now) any widely divergent viewpoint appears to be extremist and speaking your mind about where you honestly see the country going makes you sound like a crackpot or a conspiracy theorist.

    Just calling Obama a statist — which he most definately is — puts me in the extremist category. Well sometimes you have to call it as you see it or you are worse than an extremist — you’re a traitor to what you believe.

  3. Harvey |

    BTW: Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  4. Tom |

    Thanks, Harvey — Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

    I disagree with many things Obama and the Democrats have done and want to do. I agree that he might be categorized as a statist, and maybe as a European-style social democrat. That doesn’t make me or anyone else an extremist.

    As I said in the article, there aren’t many true extremists on either the left or the right. Too many people, however, agree with extremists on their side of the spectrum without appreciating the implications behind that kind of thinking.

    Obama, like his predecessor, is just a man trying to do his best in the most difficult job in the world. They both love their country and want to do the right thing, although their perceptions of what the right thing is are different. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with one or the other.

    True extremism is reflected in statements like:

    — Obama is a crypto-Muslim socialist communist whose real agenda is to destroy America.

    — George Bush is the same as Hitler; his goal is to make his rich friends richer and he doesn’t care about minorities and the poor.

    We see that kind of nonsense all over the place, and I think all of us should oppose it, particularly when it comes from someone whose views you otherwise agree with.

  5. doris |

    Nail on the head this time, Tom. I agree with everything you said and then some. I still don’t like George Bush and am beginning to wonder about Obama. They are both just men, but with a lot of power, and they both can, and one did, do a lot of harm. We can only speculate about how it will all end, but we don’t have to go overboard and listen to freaks and doomsday sayers. Happy turkey day and day after.

  6. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    Nicely said, Tom.

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