There was a time in American politics when the “race card” was an effective Establishment strategy against arguments it could not refute logically. Regardless of how unrelated an issue may have been to race, the Establishment would try to make a connection in order to avoid confronting the troublesome argument. Alternatively, they might completely ignore the issue at hand and simply present evidence that the proponent himself was racist. So distasteful is racism to most Americans that the mere suggestion that a politician might be racist was enough to condemn any idea, policy, or position he might take, whatever its merits.
Today, that is no longer true. While hardcore liberals still try to use the race card to discredit anyone who opposes their policy positions, it is apparent that it no longer resonates with average Americans. It was always a strategy with a limited shelf life. Besides, it is only effective for one half of the Establishment. If the race card sounds hollow and timeworn coming out of the mouths of liberals, it sounds downright ridiculous when employed by conservatives.
Besides, the entire ruling Establishment is in trouble. Their welfare-warfare state is coming apart at the seams. While the blue team and the red team will continue to fight with each other, they both realize that average Americans are becoming more open to hearing from people who refuse to put on either jersey. Something must be done to stifle any reasonable consideration of these unapproved ideas. The ruling class needs a new pocket ad hominem, one that can be used by conservatives or liberals.
Extremism has filled the void. “Extremist” is a word that elicits an immediate emotional response. Thanks to the all-out propaganda campaign against extremism, average Americans immediately associate the word with images of bomb-laden Muslim terrorists or McVeigh-like “militia types,” both apocalyptic threats to all of humanity. The moment an argument is made that departs from the status quo, the tag of extremism is applied to its author in the attempt to deflect attention away from the argument itself.
The most discouraging aspect of this new slur tactic is its effectiveness. Not only is it employed by both conservatives and liberals, but it is immediately given credence by both sides as well. Recall any discussion you’ve had on a political issue. If a position is taken that is outside of the Mitt Romney-Hillary Clinton continuum, it is inevitable that someone in the room will allege extremism. Heads will immediately nod in agreement, as if merely uttering the word makes the allegation true. It is also assumed without question that any “extremist” position must be wrong. The result? The discussion goes back to the continuum. So it goes in millions of households and hundreds of millions of minds.
But what does the word “extremism” mean? Merriam-Webster defines it (in the most relevant of several definitions) as “going to extreme lengths.” Often, extremism is characterized as “too much of a good thing.” For example, one might agree that too many carbohydrates in one’s diet is not healthy, but consider eating no carbohydrates at all as “extreme.”
However, what does the word mean when applied to politics? If politics is the pursuit of justice, can any position be accurately characterized as “extremist?” Can there ever be too much justice?
Recently, freshman senator Rand Paul made an argument on the senate floor that equated the assertion of a “right to healthcare” with support of slavery. This was identical to the argument I made in Chapter 7 of my book. Of course, this immediately drew accusations of “extremism.” Certainly, the statement “Claiming a right to healthcare is claiming a right to enslave” is provocative, but does that make it “extremist?” Absolutely not. Extreme and moderate do not apply here. It is simply a fact.
There are some things that are not a matter of opinion. Anyone who has taken an introductory algebra class recalls the transitive property of equality. It states that if A = B and B = C, then A = C. A doesn’t “somewhat” equal C. It does not equal C most of the time. There is no moderate or extremist way to look at this theorem. It is absolutely true without exception or qualification.
This mathematical/logical principle applies directly to our example. Consider the following:
If (A) a right = (B) healthcare
And (B) healthcare = (C) the labor of other people
Then the right to healthcare must equal “a right to the labor of other people.” The words “moderate” or “extreme” do not apply to this statement. It is simply true. One cannot partially agree or disagree with it.
In order to disagree with it, one must reject one of the first two statements in the theorem. Assuming that one does not want to reject the first statement (healthcare is a right), then one must take the absurd position that healthcare is not the labor of other people. Without accepting this absurdity, one cannot deny that a right to healthcare constitutes a right to the labor of other people. If that is not the definition of slavery, then what is?
In American politics, the practice of extorting the labor of one person in order to provide benefits to another is not limited to healthcare. It is ubiquitous. It is virtually all that the federal government does. Sometimes the recipients of these ill-gotten gains are rich people. Sometimes they are poor people. Sometimes they are people of moderate income. Regardless of who receives the benefits, the redistribution of wealth by the government is always predicated upon the idea that one person or group can have a right to the labor of another. If you believe slavery to be morally wrong, then government healthcare must be morally wrong. It follows that if it is wrong to extort money from some people to pay for the healthcare of others, then it must be wrong to do likewise to provide education, housing, medical research, energy, jobs – the entire government redistribution system must be immoral.
Most people would characterize this line of reasoning as extremism. In other words, an extremist is someone who employs logic and faces reality.
The Establishment uses “extremism” as a bromide. It provides a comfortable escape from those realities that most Americans are not ready to face. That the entire edifice of our society is built upon legalized theft is one of them.
Things are going to change. The American empire is coming down, one way or another. Economically, we have, as Margaret Thatcher put it, “run out of other people’s money.” We can go on limiting the solutions we are willing to consider to approved Establishment absurdities, like cutting $30 billion from a $1,600 billion deficit. Or, we can face reality and conclude that virtually our entire military establishment must be dismantled and our entire welfare state phased out. The former path leads to certain collapse. The latter offers a chance for survival. When you hear someone called an extremist simply for acknowledging reality, don’t take the bait. Like the race card, the extremist card attempts to make you stop thinking and retreat into self-delusion. At this point, that is the only way that anyone would tolerate the status quo. Denying reality may have worked in past decades, but it is much too late for that now. If reason, justice, and equity are extremism, then it is time to listen to the extremists.
© Thomas Mullen 2011