What is Political Extremism?

You raise an interesting question David, about what is extremism? Again we probably don’t fully agree on the answer, but we can perhaps agree that there is not a clear cut answer to the question.

In relation to Gay Marriage, the real extremism has happened in the Democratic Party. Back in 2008, then Senator Obama ran on a platform of Traditional Marriage. It was not until 2012 that the Democratic Platform officially included Marriage Equality.

That may be a radical change, from before, but I don’t see how supporting gay marriage could be construed as an extremist political view. It is a rather harmless policy, that does not physically or mentally hurt anybody. It seems more extremist to me, that Christians insist others who may not share their religion should adhere to a religious understanding of marriage.

In my humble opinion, inisiting on a secular state in all things, is not extremist. Perhaps it is in Iran, but it should not be in the West, where we are products of the enlightenment. That the democratic party so recently did not support gay marriage, seems to be more like a product of cawardice than real political persuation. They probably knew that it was a politically unpopular view, given the dominance of religious adherence in the US.

So, in little more than 6 years the Democratic Party, and Democrats in general have gone from “We believe in Traditional Marriage”, specifically that marriage is between a man and a woman, to “Anyone who supports Traditional Marriage is a homophobe who needs to be silenced.”

I can agree that alternative opinons should be more welcomed. I do think it is acceptable to say one is against gay marriage for religious reasons. On the other hand, to my knowledge nobody on the left has suggested government should imprison those against gay marriage. Nor have the suggested they may not have jobs, or hold public office. Heated rethoric is not the same as silencing opponents.

Perhaps you could give examples of people condemning those with traditional views on marriage.

That is more than mildly disturbing and points to extremism having taken root with the Progressive Liberals in America, and elsewhere. Not the fact that they have changed their position, but the fact that they are so harsh against all who disagree, desiring those individuals to be put out of business, or removed from their jobs.

I would not support to remove people from their jobs due to political beliefs. Although it would depend on what sort of job you have and the manner in which you express your beliefs. However I do not have the impression this is the case in general. Chic-Fil-A seems more like an exception than the rule.

I would also caution to characterize liberals as the big bad wolf in this regard. In my humble opinion that would be hypocrisy. Conservatives have been in my experience far less tolerant of alternative opinions. In various governments they have e.g. banned the scientific community paid by the state to talk about global warming. That seems rather extremist.

My personal experience also suggests otherwise. As an atheist have not felt the US is very welcoming. In many parts of the US, you are looked upon as something close to a devil worshiper. For most of the time I lived in the US, I simply chose to shut up about being an atheist, as it would just cause problems. I had a friend who got punched in the face for expressing atheist views. Surveys suggest that Americans have lower regard for atheists than child molsters. Statistically speaking several American representatives ought to be atheist. Yet few if any have ever publicly expressed that. In other words many liberals are forced to self censor themselves.

Expressing socialist views seems equally problematic in the US. In Europe most countries have both socialist and communist parties. While they are often small, they are still visible in opinion pieces, political commentary and TV debates. American media in contrasts is virulently anti-socialist. I cannot help but chuckle a bit when American conservatives talk about how extremely leftist mainstream media like CNN and the New York times are. All American media is very anti-socialist, and pro-capitalism. Even a hated figure like Hillary Clinton, was strongly against Nordic style mixed-economies. We are just too radical by the standards of mainstream democrats.

These are primarily economic issues, but this also extends to social issues. You Americans may view gay-marriage as ultra radical liberalism, but in my humble opinion, the US is still exceedingly conservative socially. In Norway small children roam around naked on the beach. Being naked is seen as a natural thing. We did not dear let our small child do that when visiting a beach in the US, as we were well aware of conservative American views on nudity. It was somewhat annoying because it is uncomfortable for a child to wear a soggy diaper in the water.

One can see the same with anything related to motherhood and children. Breast feeding is encouraged in the bathroom or other specially designated places. At home you do it anywhere and nobody bats an eye. American teens cannot obtain their own contraceptives. Instead parents and the family doctor act as gate keepers. I am not saying that is necessarily wrong. I am just pointing out that while it may seem to many Americans, that liberalism has gotten extreme and totally out of hand, you still look very conservative to many Europeans.

I think some of your objections to liberalism in the US, is really more about the American style of debate. It isn’t liberalism per say but rather the stronger American propensity to be confrontational. In Nordic countries we may be more liberal but we also happen to be more conflict shy and consensus oriented.

I would not say one is necessarily better than the other. The American way certainly makes for much better television, and can sometimes be more inspirational ;-)

On a more serious note, I think the whole west is developing a sever problem from how media works today, in particular social media. It is designed to amplify differences rather than bridging them. The US is simply hit harder by this phenomenon, since traditional media still has a strong presence in many other western countries. E.g. Putin failed to spread fake news and divide people the same way in German elections as he managed in the American elections because Germans still get the bulk of their news from paper newspapers.

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Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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