What is a moderate extremist?

I believe most Americans are moderate extremists.

A moderate extremist adamantly refuses to believe an idea is wrong just because it is espoused by Republicans, that a law is good just because its intentions are good, or that spending by the government is bad just because it’s spending by the government.
Middle of the road

We are repulsed by the concept of abortion and by the consequences of banning it. We don’t believe being pro-choice is the same as being “pro-abortion.” And we don’t believe pro-lifers are anti-choice. With all due respect to the “my body – my choice” crowd, there’s another person’s body in there.

We hate war. We wish our enemies would hate war, too. Because they don’t, we believe in being better at it than they are.
We believe in the death penalty. We also believe it’s fallible, and no one should be executed so long as there is ANY doubt as to the person’s guilt. Imprisoning an innocent person because of an error is abhorrent. Executing an innocent person is abhorrent to the abhorrenth power. 
We believe prosecutors should embrace the goals of the “Innocence Project” and rename it the “Guilt Confirmation Project.” DNA evidence that exonerates should free the unjustly imprisoned. DNA evidence that confirms guilt should be heralded as the biggest “I-Told-You-So” in the prosecutorial arsenal. 
We are more concerned about whether the Ten Commandments are hanging in our own house than in a courthouse. We don’t want government to tell us who God is, how many gods we can have, what day we can worship Him or whether we can carve a statue of Him. Or Her. Or them.
We don’t believe cutting taxes is “government spending.” And we don’t believe raising taxes is legalized robbery.
We don’t think Ronald Reagan was always right or Clinton was always wrong, and vice versa.
We know the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal wasn’t just “about sex.” We know it was about perjury, a criminal offense. And we believe it’s hypocritical to carry the banner of women’s rights while at the same time committing an act that would qualify as sexual harassment if committed by any other employer on Earth without the names Hefner or Guccione. We still don’t think the President of the United States should lose his job over refusing to admit under oath that he cheated on his wife. 
We don’t believe Newt Gingrich stole Christmas. The jury’s still out on Arbor Day.
We don’t care if the media are liberal, so long as they’re accurate. We don’t care if Fox News is conservative, so long as it’s accurate. The omissions, inaccuracies and unfairness are what bother us, not necessarily the bias.
We laugh when Sarah Palin accidentally calls North Korea an ally, and we laugh just as hard when Barack Obama brags about visiting 57 states. We don’t believe either slip up is a fair indication of the flubber’s intelligence.
We don’t think Barack Obama did a single dang thing to earn the Nobel Peace Prize (a position articulated best by Barack Obama).
We don’t believe Palin’s crosshairs were responsible for the attempt on Gabby Giffords’ life anymore than the early films of Jodie Foster were responsible for the attempt on Ronald Reagan’s life.
We expect those in our country illegally to be respected as human beings and afforded the due process rights we would grant to any other human being accused of a civil infraction and/or crime. We also think the immigration laws of this country ought to be respected [except in cases of civil disobedience, in which the offenders ought to be prepared to face the consequences to make their points].
We don’t believe it’s racist to oppose illegal immigration, but shucks, we sure do notice that an awful lot of racists do. We don’t believe it’s racist to oppose affirmative action, but shucks…
We don’t think Rush Limbaugh crossed the “racism” line when he played a parody song called “Barack the Magic Negro.” We do believe he crossed the line when he called Obama’s core supporters “savages.”
We know that there’s a difference between Jeff Foxworthy calling someone a redneck or cracker as opposed to a Nation of Panthers spokesman using the exact same words. We also know there’s a difference between a certain word beginning with the letter N being uttered by a “gangsta rapper” as opposed to being uttered by a CEO or a news anchor.
We believe Don Rickles was hilarious. In the 1960s and 1970s.
We think The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird are brilliant works of literature. And we think all children of all races and ethnicities should read them.
We do not “look for reasons” to be offended. We do not look for reasons to offend. We believe if you are thick-skinned, it doesn’t make it OK for us to offend you. And vice versa.
We go with our heads and, if unable to draw a conclusion, go with our gut. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a mistake. But it’s always with the best interest of our country at heart.

Published by Olmeda

At-large director on the national board of the Society of Professional Journalists. Former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and of UNITY: Journalists of Color. An extreme moderate, not committed to political ideology. Stepfather to two wonderful daughters. Father to two wonderful sons. Husband. Rogue karaoke singer. Humanist

7 thoughts on “What is a moderate extremist?

  1. I believe that you believe that your beliefs are majority beliefs – and I believe that most Americans believe that what they believe is what everybody else does (or ought to) believe as well. The only belief that too few Americans believe is that it might be prudent to consider the idea that beliefs are not as useful as our beliefs lead us to believe. They’re comforting, but not particularly useful; they can be as strongly-held as they are frequently-inaccurate. And the word itself does a disservice to those words it widely (and inexactly) displaces – suspect, think, wonder, hope, know – as well as devaluing the virtue of open-minded discussion; a person brave enough to open such discussion is met not with explanation and logic, but with dismissive scorn, “I’m only telling you what I believe, you must respect it.” But I don’t believe in the value or legitimacy of such arguments.

    In short, although you are likely correct in the sense that most people are probably like most people, your attempt to classify your own opinions as majority American values by dropping the word “believe” at the beginning seems to be either remarkably naive, or an example of the sort of candy-coated desperation-tinged rhetoric – spouted by vote-hungry politicians but never by the thinkers that affect actual positive change – that is influencing our society towards docile, complacent, apathetic acceptance in place of heated, passionate, civil discussion.

    In shorter – “This word – I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    But that’s just what I believe…


  2. I think there is a moderate point to be made here about grammar. You are really writing (exquisitely, btw) about being an Extreme Moderate, not being a Moderate Extremist. A Moderate Extremist is just halfway down the path of Extremism — which I certainly don’t see as aligning with your manifesto above — whereas an Extreme Moderate hold *very* moderate positions.


  3. Technically that would be “extremist moderation”, or, as it is actually called, “principled centrism”

    Moderate extremism describes a position outside of the mainstream political spectrum (such as Communism on the left and fascism on the right) held by people who hold it undogmatically with nuance and are responsive to common sense arguments, without abandoning extreme principles.

    It’s a facet of metamodernism and it’s almost the opposite of the principled centrism you describe.

    I feel like you made up the term without being aware of its extant use in metamodernist philosophy.


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