Don't you find it odd that the word extremism seems to apply only to conservative Republicans? Terminology often drives political discourse and those who control the terms often determine the outcome.
Establishment Republicans have too often been uncomfortable in their own skin. When they win elections, they sometimes seem unsure of what to do next. Democrats never seem to have this problem. They operate according to their core convictions and are never considered extreme. Instead, they are moderate, even normal. When Republicans stick to their convictions, they are branded with a scarlet "E."
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush raised the extremist issue last Monday in New York at a breakfast for reporters sponsored by Bloomberg View.
As reported by Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times, Bush said Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, the former president, would have a "hard time" fitting in with a GOP led by the tea party movement. Bush said George H.W. Bush and Reagan would struggle with "an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement." Bush's father agreed with Democrats on raising taxes, breaking his pledge not to, and was defeated for re-election. Is this the path Jeb Bush recommends for Republicans: agree with Democrats and lose elections?
Why does this approach appear to apply only to Republicans and not Democrats? Congressional Democrats recently had an opportunity to prove their moderation by voting in favor of a bill that would have outlawed sex-selection abortions. Most Democrats (and a few Republicans) refused to vote for the measure.
President Obama favors a legal right to abortion. As a member of the Illinois legislature, Obama refused to support the "Born-alive Infants Protection Act," which extends legal protection to an infant born alive after a failed induced abortion, even if the child could not survive. Senator Obama saw the bill as a roundabout attack on a woman's abortion rights and voted against it. Extremism?
Can anyone name a top aide to President Obama who is pro-life or who favors less spending, smaller government and lower taxes? Where are the "moderates" in his administration?
In Maine, former Republican Governor Angus King is running for the U.S. Senate. A Washington Post story headlined: "Angus King makes a last stand for moderation in Maine Senate race." The story quotes King: "My desire is to be as independent as I can be, as long as I can be, subject to being effective."
What does "effective" mean? If Democrats want to raise taxes and spending, would King go along just to maintain his "moderate" and "effective" image? Does "getting things done" mean not caring what things are done?
The tea party exists because its members are weary of the games played by Washington politicians. When they vote for Republicans, they don't expect them to go to Washington and cut deals that allow the liberal agenda to advance. They want to see real reform, including a reversal of the cultural decline that offends their beliefs. Why aren't liberals who are attacking the economic and moral foundations of the country the real extremists?
In his breakfast meeting with reporters, Jeb Bush mentioned the need for immigration reform and a change in tone about how illegal immigrants are dealt with. He is right, but that doesn't make people who want to control our borders and enforce our laws extremists. It isn't either-or, it's both, but a nation that cannot, or will not, control its borders will not continue to be the nation it has been or the one most people love and want to preserve.
Is that extreme, or are the real extremists people who favor open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens?
Many Republicans, it seems, would sooner be called anything but an extremist. Too many of them abandon their convictions at the sound of the word, eagerly desiring the approval of the liberal establishment. Such people are only making a stopover on the way to a destination called liberal extremism.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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