Neither Left nor Right

March 20th, 2010

By Tom Carter

Kathleen Parker is a clear-minded thinker whose excellent columns are always worth reading.  From her column in tomorrow’s Washington Post:

Independents as a group outnumber either party…. Yet, given the hyperpartisanship that began under George W. Bush — and has accelerated during President Obama’s first year, thanks in large part to the enabling mechanism of the Internet — one would think that America were divided into hard left and hard right.

We’re not. We’re a vast middle, slightly right-of-center nation. How is it that so many feel so disenfranchised by so few?

Parker concluded:

America’s first popularly elected female senator, Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith…wrote words that resonate yet again:

“It is time that the great center of our people, those who reject the violence and unreasonableness of both the extreme right and the extreme left…shed their intimidated silence and declared their consciences.”

Hear, hear. And, dare I say, mega-dittos.

I’m consistently struck by the fact that extremists of both left and right are so much alike.  The characteristics they share are ignorance of facts, unquestioning loyalty to media demagogues, and an inability to deal with the complexities of reasoned argument.  Every time I hear one of them repeat standard extremist dogma, like “Bush lied, people died” or “Obama is a socialist who wants to destroy America,” I’m depressed that so many of our citizens are so detached from reality.

The good news, however, is that there really are few such extremists.  As Parker points out in her column, independents and centrists far outnumber those on the far right and the far left.  They’re just quieter.

Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t principled, informed, and educated people on both left and right.  I enjoy reading and listening to them, and I often find myself in agreement on specific points.  Arguments well-made are always a joy, and it’s too bad we can’t find more of them these days.

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4 Responses to “Neither Left nor Right”

  1. larry |

    Once again you are making comments that are not necessarily true. Your first paragraph pretty much condemns anyone that can’t pass your litmus test of what a good American should be. Your assertion that extremist are ignorant of knowledge is preposterous. Reading Snopes doesn’t always make a better citizen but experience does.

  2. Tom |

    I’m not sure what “first paragraph” you’re referring to, but I didn’t establish any kind of “litmus test.” There isn’t anything preposterous about stating that political extremists are typically either uninformed or unable to deal with reality and facts. It’s readily apparent.

    You might also note that I said there are few real extremists. To be a convinced conservative or liberal or libertarian or whatever, and to be able to intelligently defend that position based on facts and knowledge, pretty much means that one is not an extremist. It just means that people can look at the same facts and arrive at different conclusions. However, people who can intelligently defend their positions don’t usually base their arguments on demagogic talking points and promote absurd conspiracy theories.

  3. Lisa |

    There is a reason Kathleen Parker wrote this article. She like many others are asking, where is the voice of the center majority on Obamacare?? The fact is that many people don’t care to write their opinions in blogs or march at the Capitol. These same people are reacting in their own ways. Case in point: my daughter’s music teacher, an independent, had photos and bumper stickers of Barack Obama the candidate at her house during the campaign and for some time thereafter. After summer break, she greeted us at the front door of her home voicing concern about the future of her medicare and as we entered her house, we saw that all evidence of Barack Obama was gone. This teacher had evolved from being an active cheerleader for Barack Obama, the candidate who had promised bi-partisanship and a new open and improved Washington politics, to now being an enraged citizen who feels taken advantaged of and lied to by a Chicago politician who campaigned as a moderate but all along had a different plan. The music teacher is not alone. She is just one example of the vast right of center majority.

  4. Tom |

    You nailed it, Lisa. Although I didn’t support Obama the way she did, I hoped that he would be a good and successful president, for the country’s sake. Now I have serious doubts, for lots of reasons. The Democrats are going to pay a pretty high price in November, I’d guess, and if Obama doesn’t get his act together pretty soon, he may suffer the same fate in 2012.

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