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Thursday, April 10, 2003

Ain't Misbehavin'

Calpundit makes a small point in his post today on Michael Tomasky's excellent call to arms in The American Prospect. He has said this in so many words a number of times in the ongoing debate about extremism vs. moderation etc.

My problem is with extremist liberals who seem to go out of their way to alienate Middle America — highly public vomit-ins, tree spikings, trips to Baghdad — without ever thinking about what effect this might have on acceptance of the liberal agenda in general.

Every political party has its fringe. In a two party system, the coalition in each is huge and represents a wide range of opinion. There are also always those who will use dramatic and over the top actions in the name of politics. However, they rarely signify with the public unless a concerted propaganda campaign makes it appear that these people represent a mainstream view and then closely ties them to elected politicians.

White supremecists, Christian Reconstructionists, militias, neo-confederates and anti-immigrant bigots represent the extremist fringe of the Republican party and I would suggest that their activities would be far more repulsive to most middle of the road Americans than some theatrical kids at a protest rally --- if they heard about them constantly. If there were a non-stop barrage of criticism coming from talk radio and cable television against comments like this, many of Kevin's ordinary Americans would begin to see these people for the rude, immature bigots they are.

But, the fact is that the only "extremists" who are pointed out and regularly lambasted in the media are from the left. And, it is part of a long standing, organized effort to portray the entire democratic party as being out of the mainstream. Even if we could persuade every single theatrical liberal that it is in the best interest of the liberal agenda to behave in a more politic way, it would not make one bit of difference. They already call Tom Daschle an ultra liberal spawn of Satan and Howie Kurtz says that's mainstream partisan discourse. If the "extremists" of the left didn't exist, Rush would just make some up.

The problem for Democrats isn't our cultural nonconformists who embarrass and disconcert the bourgeoisie. Our problem is the GOP extremists who are now directing the government and buying up the media while dishonestly presenting themselves as moderate middle of the roaders. The Republicans have successfully convinced a lot of people that kooky gay guys "shocking" the straights or removing the word God from the pledge of allegiance are more of a threat to them than a series of expensive unilateral wars while bankrupting the government and discarding the safety net and all consumer protections.

We have to recognize that the other side will demonize us no matter what we actually do so there is no margin in trying to tailor our image. The other side won't let that happen. We have to depend upon our ideas and our candidates making a better case. And we have to finally go after the other side with everything in our arsenal. Worrying about our own extremists instead of exposing theirs is playing into their hands.

edited slightly for clarity