Who Are The Extremists?

It seems to me….

Research shows that if people are talking and listening to like-minded others, they become more dogmatic, more unified, and more extreme. Personalized Facebook experiences are a breeding ground for misunderstanding and miscommunication across political lines and, ultimately, for extremism.” ~ Cass Sunstein[1].

There are many conflicting assertions levied by political party adherents frequently intended to negatively influence support for what are considered to be opposing ideologies. Unfortunately, many of those contentions are not only incorrect, they also clearly demonstrate that some of their most vociferous proponents have little knowledge upon which to base their obviously fallacious assertions.

While members of all political parties attempt to saddle their opponents with derogatory labels, perhaps the most common charge currently being falsely averred is by Republicans claiming policies advocated by Democrats are “socialist”. It is not apparent where Republicans (and even many Democrats) were educated but the charge would be ludicrous if not apparently so widely accepted unchallenged by so many who should know better. While it is entirely possible that a small minority of U.S. citizens actually do advocate socialism, there is not one prominent Democratic politician within recent memory that has done so[2].

There is not now – nor has there ever been – any recommendation or desire by either major party to adopt socialism (if anyone thinks otherwise, they need to actually learn what socialism is).

For those apparently not well informed, “socialism” is a political and economic theory of social organization in which property is held in common rather than individually. It advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the state. It is obviously untrue that any aspect of either the Democratic party platform or even any campaign pronouncements by individual candidates or elected representatives are in anyway socialist. To claim otherwise is totally fallacious. At most, many advocate a private-sector-driven economy but with a stronger social safety net, enhanced bargaining power for workers, and tighter regulation of corporate malfeasance.

Unfortunately, labels such as “socialism” have pejorative connotations apparently not understood by the general public[3]. More than eight-in-ten Republicans (84 percent) have a negative impression of socialism; a 63 percent majority has a very negative view. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats (65 percent) have a somewhat positive view of socialism, but only 14 percent have a very positive view. Obviously, there is a general lack of understanding by members of both parties regarding what constitutes socialism.

Similarly, some critics fail to distinguish between “socialism” and “democratic socialism” where state regulation, with limited state ownership, has been employed by democratically elected governments in several countries such as Sweden and Denmark in the belief that it produces a more equitable distribution of income without impairing economic growth. While a number of politicians, almost all of whom are Democrats (or in the case of Bernie Sanders, an Independent), do claim to be democratic socialists, it is primarily applicable only to their advocacy for social policies such as universal healthcare and education and not state ownership or the means of production.

Even Bernie Sanders, as most likely the best-known proponent of social democracy, has never favored community ownership of property. The programs for which he personally is an advocate are universal healthcare, education, and reduction of economic inequality.

Another term bandied about but equally misunderstood is “progressive”. Progressivism is simply support for or advocacy of social reform. As a philosophy, it is based on the idea of progress, which asserts that advancements in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to the improvement of the human condition. A progressive politician, either liberal or conservative, is one who usually favors the middleclass and sympathizes with them and any struggles they may be facing. Not all liberals are progressives and not all progressives are liberals though conservatives are more likely to attempt to apply the term derogatorily to liberals similar to the claim of socialism. This is slightly more understandable however as many extreme conservatives consider any change objectionable. That there are in fact conservative progressives belies claims that all liberals are progressives and many Democrats object to being consider as such.

While some conservatives equate “democratic socialism” with “socialism”, there are substantial differences. As commonly used today, democratic socialism primarily favors increased social welfare and has long been part of U.S. advocacy even extending back to the original colonies. Social welfare refers to a wide range of activities and services by volunteers, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies providing help to needy persons unable to care for themselves; activities and resources designed to enhance or promote the well-being of individuals, families, and the larger society; and efforts to eliminate or reduce the incidence of social problems. Progressives from both parties back such policies as they provide an incisive critique of what is wrong in Western societies. Politicians on the right have all but relinquished the battle of ideas in their quickening retreat towards chauvinism and nostalgia; those on the left have focused on inequality, the environment, and how to vest power in citizens rather than elites. While basically correct, many on the left are overly pessimistic about the modern world displaying naivety about budgets, bureaucracies, and businesses.

The Republican party is now confronting difficulties reminiscent of the Democratic party in the 1920s – they have divided into multiple factions and consequently have their own set of problems, most of which are of their own culpability. One of their most prominent factions is the Tea Party. The Tea Party faction is a fiscally conservative political movement within the Republican Party whose members incessantly demand lower taxes and reduction of the U.S. national debt and federal budget deficit through decreased government spending. They support small-government principles and oppose programs such as government-sponsored universal healthcare. It has been described as a popular constitutional movement composed of a mixture of libertarian, right-wing populist, and conservative activism. Many of its adherents represent the ostrich wing of the Republican party who normally have their heads buried in the sand.

The Libertarian Party (LP) is another faction within the Republican Party, though supporters commonly are also Tea Party adherents, that promotes civil liberties, non-interventionism, laissez-faire capitalism, and shrinking the size and scope of government. Current fiscal policy positions include lowering taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), decreasing the national debt, allowing people to opt out of Social Security, and eliminating the welfare state in part by utilizing private charities. Current cultural policy positions include ending prohibition of illegal drugs, advocating criminal justice reform, supporting same-sex marriage, ending capital punishment, and supporting gun ownership rights.

While seldom actually stated, the Republican party’s recent lemming-like stampede to the far right has resulted in its embrace of neofascism and other conservative extremist factions. Neo-fascism is a post-World War II ideology that includes significant elements of fascism. It usually includes elements of ultra-nationalism, racial supremacy, populism, authoritarianism, nativism, xenophobia, and opposition to immigration, as well as opposition to liberal democracy, parliamentarianism, capitalism, Marxism, communism, and socialism. Acceptance has unfortunately escalated under Trump resulting in a waning of many of the nation’s most laudable policies and beliefs that have largely defined the U.S. since its creation.

Allegations that a group is neo-fascist may be questionable, especially if the term is used as a political epithet. Some post-World War II regimes have been described as neo-fascist due to their authoritarian nature and, sometimes, due to their fascination with and sympathy towards fascist ideology and rituals. Groups identified as neo-fascist in the U.S. generally include neo-Nazi organizations and movements such as the National Alliance, and the American Nazi Party. The Institute for Historical Review publishes negationist historical papers often of an anti-Semitic nature.

Fascism differs from neo-fascism in that it is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism at the far-right of the political spectrum usually associated with constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties, and interest groups. Its legitimacy is based on emotion, especially the identification of the regime as necessary to combat evil and other easily recognizable societal problems such as underdevelopment or insurgency. There typically is minimal social mobilization most often caused by constraints on the public such as suppression of political opponents and anti-regime activity along with informally defined executive authority with often vague and shifting powers[4].

The Alternative Right, commonly known as the “alt-right”, is a loosely connected set of far-right ideologies, groups, and white supremacist, white nationalist, white separatist, anti-immigration, and sometimes anti-Semitic movements whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. It includes a broad range of groups from authoritarian right-wing technocrats and neo-monarchists to neo-reactionaries and white nationalists and is also often included under the umbrella term “neo-fascist” as many adhere to a radical authoritarian ultra-nationalism. The Alternative Right is characterized by heavy use of social media and online memes. Alt-righters typically eschew “establishment” conservatism, skew young, and embrace white ethnonationalism as a fundamental value.

A very vocal subset of the alt-right, white supremacists comprise a lunatic fringe of the Republican Party that advocates the racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them. There has been a steady rise in right-wing related propaganda and violence with followers linked to at least 50 murders just in 2018, a 35 percent increase over the previous year[5]. Among domestic extremist movements active in the U.S., white supremacists are by far the most violent committing about 83 percent of the extremist-related murders in the U.S. in the past ten years and being involved in about 52 percent of the shootouts between extremists and police. They also regularly engage in a wide variety of terrorist plots, acts, and conspiracies.

Republicans have moved considerably to the right over the past four decades. Now, the extreme right has abandoned the basic conservative values that previously defined the party. Seemingly aggrieved and discontent, they have become pessimistic and reactionary. A recent study[6] determined that the GOP is far to the right of mainstream European conservative parties – even being to the right of anti-immigrant parties like Britain’s UKIP and France’s National Rally. If mainstream U.S. Republicans were in any other country, they would be classified as white nationalist extremists.

Democrats are more open to opposing views than conservatives as demonstrated by their more accepting perspective of “conservatives”. Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (38 percent) say they view “conservatives” positively compared with fewer than a quarter of Republicans who view “liberals” in the same light. Perhaps this partly explains the basic philosophical difference between liberal tolerance of opposing beliefs compared to conservative rejection and unwillingness to consider essentially everything.

Many who either do, or at least should, know better are motivated either through ignorance or perversity to mischaracterize opposing political ideologies so as to capitalize on stark partisan divisions. Regardless of ideology, it is an oversimplification to even attempt to generalize or to attribute a specific ideology to any political entity as each is composed of many individuals each with their own explicit and unique beliefs. While basic differences of opinion are both natural and beneficial, attempting to exploit those disagreements for personal advantage is contrary to the welfare of our nation.

The Republican party once stood for free markets and moral values but has since largely abandoned its support of freedom and liberty. It is antagonistic toward federal law enforcement, provides support to Russia and other authoritarian regimes, rejects refugees, backs “deep-state” conspiracy theories…. Its charges of fake news undermine the First and Second Amendments.

As an indication of how far to the right the Republican party has shifted, many of what Republicans now attempt to label as extreme policies currently supported by Democrats were part of the mainstream Republican party platform in the relatively recent past[7]. Then, political beliefs Republicans now consider liberal or extremist would have been moderate Republican. Political ideological portrayals are relative only within the current overall political spectrum. In reality, both political parties have moved to the right. Who really are the extremists?

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Cass Robert Sunstein is a U.S. legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics, who was the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration.

[2] How Americans View Socialism And Capitalism, Pew Research Center, https://mailchi.mp/pewresearch.org/how-americans-view-socialism-and-capitalism?e=363e82c050, 29 June 2019.

[3] Stark Partisan Divisions In Americans’ Views Of ‘Socialism’, ‘Capitalism’, Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/25/stark-partisan-divisions-in-americans-views-of-socialism-capitalism/?utm_source=Pew+Research+Center&utm_campaign=0492b47f26-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_06_28_01_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3e953b9b70-0492b47f26-400092341, 25 June 2019.

[4] Authoritarianism, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authoritarianism.

[5] With Hate In Their Hearts: The State Of White Supremacy In The United States, ADL, https://www.adl.org/education/resources/reports/state-of-white-supremacy, 2019.

[6] Krugman, Paul. Republicans Have Moved Drastically To The Right Over The Past Four Decades, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/27/opinion/socialism-2020.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage&fbclid=IwAR3OR4c71jo4nQnQd8pTIiiNoAU8BELqPd8pu9-qekAjvV7RHHPfuLX7yC4, 27 July 2019.

[7] Mikkelson, David. 1956 Republican Platform, Snopes, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/1956-republican-platform/, 23 October 2014.

About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in Alt-Right, Alternative Right, Bernie Sanders, Britain, Britain, Conservatives, Democratic Socialism, Democrats, Denmark, Economy, England, Extremism, Extremism, Fascism, France, France, Great Britain, Healthcare, Liberals, Libertarian Party, National Rally, Neo-Fascist, Politics, Populism, Progressives, Progressivism, Republican, republicans, Russia, Social Welfare, Socialism, Sweden, Tea Party, Tea Party, UKIP, Universal Healthcare, White Nationalism, White Supremacists, White Supremacy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.