Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Extremists in America

I'm going to post Oliver Willis' article in full here, because it's that good. But go read the rest of his blog, which is ALSO very good.

Extremists In America

Jeff Jarvis has an interesting post up about political polarization in America. A few weeks ago, when I was in a bit of a funk, I thought "you know, it's quite possible we could have a civil war in this country". I know that that isn't true, or rational, but I do believe that we really are that far apart.

I'm right up there in the legion of Bush-haters, but on September 11 I was ready to back him full tilt against terrorism. When Al Qaeda struck, they didn't distinguish between political affiliation, and when we expressed our love for each other and our resolve against them - it wasn't based on what party you were a member of.

The disconnect happened when we decided to go into Iraq. From the perspective of the left, Bush just never made a comprehensive case for going into Iraq, while we were ostensibly in the middle of a war on terrorism.

I tried to listen with an open mind, I swear. I thought 9/11 opened his mind, and we would have a newfound resolve to fight terrorism to the ends of the earth. But what I saw was a reversion to the divisive politics of the 2000 election, impeachment, and the entire Clinton presidency. The war on Iraq became a midterm election year issue, rather than a national security policy. That's a great way to alienate half of the political sphere. I see the same attitude on conservative blogs and their comments, remarking that the left is either idealogically in league with terrorists. I can't speak for the left of old, but it would take someone with the psyche of a battered wife to just sit there and take that.

They will deny it, but the right got behind their bombthrowers big time in the '90s. Folks like Rush Limbaugh were completely absorbed into the GOP and that anger fueled a midterm election win. The result of that was that Bill Clinton swerved to beat them, and they lost it - and we got handed impeachment.

Maybe its because of where I stand, but I fail to see how a couple of documentaries, a fledgling radio network, a few green thinktanks, and a growing army of internet pamphleteers even comes close.

I get branded as an extremist, some sort of wild-eyed radical liberal. Know what my platform is?

I believe in decently regulated free markets. I believe in global trade, with safeguards for decent wages and working conditions. I'm in favor of the death penalty. I believe in the use of the military when all other options are exhausted. I want all terrorists dead. I think the UN is a good idea, and we should work to make it worthwhile. I think that the middle class should get a cut in taxes. I think that affirmative action needs serious work, and if we got serious about education there would be no need. I think the government is us, and I think it should be our goal to make it better - not to destroy it and leave things up to corporations whose only focus is their quarterly earnings.

But I believed that the war in Iraq was the wrong war, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, and now obviously run by the wrong people. For that, I get called all sorts of names by the right, branded as all sorts of things - but I'm just supposed to shrug that off?

Get real.

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